One US city plans to pay reparations to Black homeowners. Will the practice expand to yours?

When Morris “Dino” Robinson tried to refinance his house in Evanston, Illinois, in January, he was shocked to learn his first appraisal was $100,000 lower than a previous appraisal in 2017.

Robinson then sought a second estimate. It determined that the value of his home in Evanston’s fifth ward – a predominantly African-American part of town – had actually increased by $75,000 in that four-year span.

He signed the paperwork based on that appraisal last month, frustrated but not that surprised by the $175,000 swing in his property’s value.   

The first appraisal “risked the equity of my home,” said Robinson, who is Black and is the executive director of the Shorefront Legacy Center, a nonprofit that archives the history of Black residents in Evanston and nearby north Chicagosuburbs. “Therefore, it jeopardized my net worth,” he added. “This is an ongoing and frustrating process for people like me that needs to end.”

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Homes owned by Black residents have been undervalued for generations, Evanston officials say. Now, the Chicago suburb will try to make amends for that inequity by giving Black residents housing assistance, a form of reparations —or financial compensation — paid by a government for the harm slavery and discrimination have caused generations of Black Americans.

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