Editorial Roundup: Indiana

 
 
Posted4/19/2022 7:00 AM

Anderson Herald Bulletin. April 18, 2022.

Editorial: Open the door for all to own homes

 

Last year, a married Black couple wanted to sell their Cincinnati, Ohio, house at a list price of $525,000. They got an offer in the low $500,000s.

But then an appraiser set the home value at $465,000, almost $42,000 lower than the agreed-upon price. The couple removed family photos, artwork and even a daughter's superhero pictures - anything that indicated they were Black. The second appraisal came in at $557,000.

In another case, a California couple saw their home value increase by $500,000 after a white woman stood in for them for a valuation assessment.

The two reports of bias in the housing market are not rare. A 2018 study by the Brookings Institution found that owner-occupied residences in Black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to $156 billion nationally in cumulative losses.

Cities were studied by comparing homes in majority Black neighborhoods with those where less than 1% of the residents were Black. For example, in Muncie, which is mentioned in the study, the median home value in a Black neighborhood was $58,735, about $7,069 less than in a neighborhood with few Blacks residents.

In February, the National Association of Realtors released its 'œ2022 Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America' report, examining racial disparities in the housing market. Five percent of the Black respondents said they had witnessed or experienced racial discrimination in appraisals, similar to the above two examples.

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That may seem low but other factors were more startling.

Topping the list: 46% of Black people said they had been steered away from or toward specific neighborhoods during a real estate transaction. The same discriminatory action was reported by 50% of Hispanics/Latinos, 48% of Asians and 35% of white people.

Responding to the study, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said, 'œUnfortunately, NAR's report confirms that Black Americans are being locked out of homeownership opportunities at an even higher rate than a decade ago.

'œIt is critical that we bridge the racial homeownership gap with intentional solutions that recognize both the persistent history of discrimination and inequity, and the current crisis of housing affordability.'

On March 29, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters opened a hearing on appraisal discrimination with the House Committee on Financial Services, of which she is chairwoman. She noted, 'œStudies have found that a home in a White neighborhood is valued two times higher than comparable homes in Black and Latinx neighborhoods.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She plans to introduce the Fair Appraisal and Inequity Reform Act of 2022 to help curb appraisal discrimination.

But until then, anyone involved in a real estate transaction should help expand access to credit for groups that have experienced systemic discrimination; help make home ownership more available for those with student loan debt, which all too often can be a immediate red flag to lenders; and promote programs, many already existing, to support sustainable home ownership.

Appraisers and real estate agents must knock down discriminatory barriers and open the door for home ownership to all.

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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. April 17, 2022.

Editorial: Food-and-beverage tax and spend

State lawmakers act to rein in counties' abuses of funding mechanism

It was the mid-1980s when the Indiana General Assembly began approving food-and-beverage taxes for counties and municipalities to use as a fresh stream of revenue. More than 30 years later, legislators are clamping down on their use across the state.

The changes were approved on the last day of the 2022 legislative session, after language found in Senate Bill 390 was moved into House Bill 1002. Authored by Sen. Mike Gaskill, R-Pendleton, it sets a 20-year expiration date on new local food-and-beverage taxes and establishes a process to renew or create them.

Allen County asked state legislators in 1986 to approve the 1% tax '" a user fee mostly paid by restaurant-goers '" to pay off bonds used for Memorial Coliseum construction. The tax paid off the coliseum bonds and, with legislative action in 2009, the name of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Convention and Tourism Board was changed to the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board.

Today that board is in charge of investing food-and-beverage-tax revenue in projects of public interest. The Riverfront Project, the Skyline Garage and two downtown hotels are recent beneficiaries.

Madison County, one of eight 'œdoughnut counties' surrounding Indianapolis, told lawmakers in 1989 its food-and-beverage tax would go toward building a convention center along the White River. The food-and-beverage-tax money never went to its original purpose. Officials eventually built a juvenile detention center with it, and the city of Anderson now uses a sizable portion of its share of food-and-beverage taxes to fund the economic development and municipal development departments of its City Hall.

'œWe felt there needed to be some guardrails put on food-and-beverage taxes and some transparency,' said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, chair of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. 'œSometimes things were out of control... There's just a great concern. From this point forward, these guardrails would be in place.'

Bart Shaw, executive director of the Grand Wayne Convention Center, said the new law ends all current food-and-beverage taxes in 2042, or the date on which all bonds or lease agreements outstanding in March 2022 are completely paid. That date for Allen County would be 2051, said Shaw, who is also staff support for the Capital Improvement Board. The latest bond issued by the board was in 2019 to expand the Civic Center Garage, he said, and its pledge of $45 million to Electric Works and $27 million to additional riverfront projects are not affected by the food-and-beverage tax law change.

Shaw said the Allen County food-and-beverage tax collected $8.9 million in 2021. The first $2.6 million goes to Memorial Coliseum to pay off debt from raising its 1,200-ton roof to make way for luxury boxes and thousands of additional seats. The rest goes to the CIB to aid community development.

John Stafford, who once was a member of the old Convention and Tourism board and now is a consultant to the CIB, calls adoption of the food-and-beverage tax in Allen County 'œsignificant.' 'œIt gave us a source of revenue that we could use for major economic development projects that wasn't previously available '" a tool that many major communities have. ... Legislators were fairly specific that we don't want this to be used for something that is an ordinary expenditure for local government. We want it to be used for activities that enhance the economy of Allen County. I think it has fulfilled that expectation,' Stafford said.

The CIB projects financed in Allen County are obvious to passers-by. A list of guidelines for future proposals can be found on the Bureau's website, allencountycib.org. Here, the food-and-beverage is used in the way in which the General Assembly intended.

Madison and likely others among the 30-plus Hoosier counties and municipalities with a food-and-beverage tax have work to do to keep that revenue stream.

Moving forward, proceeds from such a tax may only be used to finance projects that benefit the entire community and not prop up normal government functions or departments, as the city of Anderson has.

We welcome Indiana's common-sense changes to the food-and-beverage tax. They promote better transparency between governments and the governed, and set standards to help taxpayers follow how the taxes are used.

END

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