October 28, 2022

NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and partners will testify today in front of two Assembly committees on bills with huge racial justice implications for the Garden State.

The New Jersey Assembly Regulated Professions Committee will hear testimony at 2 p.m. on A1519, a bill aimed at ensuring that New Jersey has strong protections against discrimination in home appraisals based on race. 

Under A1519, appraisers who commit discrimination will be fined or have their licenses suspended. California adopted similar legislation to combat discrimination in home appraisals last year.

“Discrimination in housing appraisals strips wealth from Black communities who have historically been denied the same lending opportunities, public subsidies and other supports that white communities have used to build wealth through homeownership,” said Laura Sullivan, Director of the Economic Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, who will testify in support of the bill. “With homeownership being the primary driver of wealth, this kind of discrimination in housing contributes to New Jersey’s huge racial wealth gap: a $300,000 disparity in the median wealth between Black and white households.”

Analysis of over 12 million appraisals nationally for home purchases demonstrated that properties in Black and Latino neighborhoods receive appraisal values lower than contract price (i.e., what a buyer is willing to pay and a strong indicator of the true market price) substantially more than in white areas.

Also, the Assembly Appropriations Committee will hear testimony at 11 a.m. on A2131/S2912 which allows police at polling locations in schools and senior residential centers during the election.  

If passed, the final bill will roll back parts of a pro-democracy law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 18 that prohibits law enforcement from being within 100 feet of polling places but allows them to respond in emergency situations.

“Law enforcement and voting do not go together,” said Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, who will testify against the bill. “In election after election, we see people intimidated by police at the polls, especially Black and Brown voters. This bill doesn’t protect our democracy or our children. It could however, intentionally or not, suppress the Black vote in New Jersey.”

According to a recent study in one state, the presence of a police officer at the polls reduced the likelihood of voting for Black people by 32%.

Audio of both hearings will be available here.