Family claims racial bias affected housing appraisal because of wife's race: Part 1

After receiving a low appraisal, Abena Horton, who is Black, and her husband, who is white, asked for a second, removing evidence of a Black family. It came back higher, which she said was “crushing.”
12:06 | 10/15/20

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Transcript for Family claims racial bias affected housing appraisal because of wife's race: Part 1
Very sad about doing this. But kind of wanted to document it. Reporter: A woman in Florida is recording the moment she has decided to do something really hard. Because it does seem like one of the few ways that we can achieve economic fairness, by just having my husband be in a house by himself and taking down all evidence that he has a black family. Reporter: Her name is abine Horton. She is a labor and employment this is her husband, Alex Horton, an artist. Last June, they set out to get an appraisal of their home in Jacksonville, Florida, hoping to refinance and pay down the mortgage. A home filled with books and photos and love. Her family, his family. But when the appraiser came, abine was there and said she felt something unsettling. It clicked in my mind almost immediately that I understand what the issue was here. Why did I let myself forget that I live in America as a black person? And that I need to take some extra steps to get a fair result? Reporter: The appraisal comes back. It is shockingly low. Even the bank doesn't make sense of that number. Coming out of the first appraisal, was it rage? Was it exhaustion? It was exhaustion, I would say. This person is being so petty and hateful, and he's wasting my time. Reporter: So she decided to get a second appraisal with a new appraiser. Same house. But something different. Hey, it's abine again. Back with another edition of "The things that we are taking down from our walls." There are a few things in my house that are demonstrably black. So clearly the pictures that we have all over the house, with all of our family members, with my grandmother getting married back in the '40s. We have the picture of Charlie Bolden, African-American astronaut. Pictures of me when I was a baby. "Black panther." We both P away pictures. And it's like, these are people I love, these are people I care about. And I need to hide them. That was very tough. And then, of course, the primary thing that we did was remove both me and my son from the home during the second appraisal. But when you're doing this, what does that do to the spirit? It's crushing the spirit, of course. I'm ashamed of it. I'll be honest. I'm ashamed of the fact that my son will see that this is something that I did. I'm ashamed to say that I really wanted to refinance and pay off my house sooner and have full equity in my home. And so I was willing to put up with that indignity to do it. Because I knew it was going to be effective. So it was a combination of prima tism and deep and profound sadness, doing that. Reporter: She took down all the photos of her family, replacing them only with photos of her husband and his whi family. And he is the person in the home when the new appraiser comes. And when the second appraisal comes back, the value of their house has shot up more than $100,000, a 40% increase. It was primarily financial relief. I'm just glad that we're going to get the rate that we want. And then I think it was about 15 seconds later when the tears came. Because we realize just how much more removing that variable increased the value of our home. To know just how much me, personally, I was devaluing the home just by sitting in it. Just by living my life. Just by paying my mortgage. Just by raising my son there. Reporter: After she posted her story on Facebook, there was a deluge of comments and people who said they had tried similar experiments with similar results. Andrea Perry, fellow at the Brookings institution, wrote the book "Know your price." He studies the effects of discrimination in housing. What we found, after controlling for education, crime, walkability, and all those fancy zillow metrics, that homes in black neighborhoods are devalued by 23%, and accumulatively, that's about $156 billion in lost equity. $156 billion would have financed more than 4 million small businesses. It would have paid for more than 8 million college degrees. That discrimination is leading to a widening of the wealth gap. And so one can argue that we're in worse shape than we were 20, 30, 40 years ago. Reporter: Which made me think about an investigation ABC news did long ago. One we hoped back then would open all our eyes. Primetime, from New York, Diane sawyer. Good evening. We bring you the results of a "Primetime" investigation. Reporter: We brought in two young professional housing testers, accompanied by hidden cameras. Here's how we started. Mete John cunin and Glen brew letter are they're both from the midwest, bent to big ten schools, played on the same softball team. They're friends. Two young men whose lives are virtually the same in every way, but one -- the one you can see. A few months ago, John and Glen agreed to pack their bags and help with our investigation. Our question, how much difference does the color of your skin make in everyday life in America? John and Glen need to find someplace to live. John goes first. A one bedroom, air conditioning -- Reporter: The manager gives John a set of keys. The keys don't work, here's your master. Reporter: John tours the vacant apartment. He's told it's available immediately. There are a couple of other places I'm going to look at, and if I decide on this one, I'll be back. I appreciate it. All right. Reporter: John leaves. And listen to what happens when Glen walks in a few minutes later. Suddenly -- The apartment has been rented? Reporter: The manager explains that regrettably, early that morning, a woman paid a deposit on the last available apartment. Oh. Earlier this morning? Reporter: There's nothing for Glen to see. So he leaves. Bye-bye. Bless you both. Reporter: We decide to go in search of an explanation. May we ask you a couple of questions? These two gentlemen came in. When this one came in, you gave him keys to an apartment. One bedroom with air conditioning. But when this gentleman came in 10 minutes later, you said there was no apartment available. No, I told this gentleman I had a call on an apartment. Reporter: But we pointed out what he had said. He had told Glen the apartment had been rented by a woman that morning. Yet he showed John the apartment in the afternoon. I am not prejudiced. I get mixed skin, I get jewish, my god. How many black people in this apartment? There's none. Reporter: Later Glen remembered the manager's parting words. He said, "Bless you both." And that infuriated me. How dare you wish blessings on me after you have just insulted me? After you have just told me that I can't live here because of the color of my skin? Reporter: And here is what happened when the two men set out to look at purchasing a car. They ask about the same red convertible, same salesman. How much down payment is needed? What do you usually ask down? Anywhere from 10% to 20%. Well, normally the banks want anywhere from 20% to 25%. You're looking at a couple grand there. Reporter: Already, John's advantage is as much as $1,000. What about the price of the car? You could probably pick it up for somewhere around the 9 range. 9? Let's say $9,500 even. Reporter: Since we heard this from the van, we decided to get out and see if we can get some answers. We ask why John and Glen were quoted different figures. They're all different. Just depends. Two guys come in, looking at the same car? What's the difference? For him the banks will do 10 to 20. For him, 20, 25? What's the difference? Depends. They were looking at the same vehicle. Oh, okay. Reporter: Here we are today, in new times and a new conversation about race. We decided to try to find Glen and John again. Hello, hello! Hello. Hello. Almost 30 years. Can we believe it? Reporter: The report we did together has been played in classrooms and diversity seminars for the past three decades. And I remember at the time, even, some people talking to me after saying like, well, that took me out of the denial phase. So this idea that they were denying that racism even existed in this country. Reporter: But for these two men, that experience is as vivid as yesterday. I just remember in that incident that that particular gentleman gave me the master key. For the units in that complex. Not that, you know -- said, if the other key doesn't work, here's your master. I remember that vividly, and what a striking distance that really was. When you start affecting people's pocketbooks, their wallets, I think that has a serious impact on their life. You remember after we screened the piece you said to me, I knew that there was bias, I knew bias was at work, I just didn't know how much nicer white people were to each other than they were to me. I believed I presented myself as a pretty good person, as a pretty decent guy. And so -- that's not to say John isn't. But I just thought that all things being equal, we would receive the same treatment. And we obviously did not. Reporter: And look at some statistics from now. When it comes to buying cars, minorities pay on average $410 more per car loan than white people with the exact same credentials. And what about renting an apartment? A study just released of the Boston rental market showed discrimination against black renters 71% of the time. Hey, Glen. Hey, John. Reporter: So our testers John and Glen have stayed friends. There's Glen at John's wedding. Glen with his three daughters. John's two sons. And they have both spent their careers working on equality for their communities. So over the 30 years, living their one friendship, and their two realities. Wondering how this can still be happening. What would you like to say to that person, almost 30 years out? This is not changing. What else should you do to try to keep progress moving forward and keep working to make things change? I would say to myself, don't get tired. Because the road is going to be a lot longer than you anticipate. Don't give up. Reporter: When we come back, what these Americans think should be done.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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