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Some white Portland homeowners are selling at a loss to Black and Indigenous buyers

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As cities across the U.S consider reparations programs for Black Americans, there's a grassroots wealth redistribution effort growing in Portland, Ore. Some white homeowners are selling their homes - at a financial loss to themselves - to Black and Indigenous residents. Tiffany Camhi from Oregon Public Broadcasting has more.

TIFFANY CAMHI, BYLINE: Randal Wyatt is Black. Annie Moss is white. They first met in 2020 through an email.

RANDAL WYATT: She titled the email, Transfer My Home to Black Ownership.

CAMHI: Moss, who inherited generational wealth, wrote that they wanted to redistribute some of their housing equity to a Black family.

ANNIE MOSS: I was saying, I do not want to profit-maximize. Like, I want it to be affordable.

CAMHI: Wyatt was emerging as a Black community organizer in Portland, and Moss thought maybe he would know of a family that could benefit.

MOSS: I think actually, the first time I reached out, I didn't hear back.

CAMHI: That's because Wyatt thought it was too good to be true. But Moss eventually followed up.

WYATT: Wow, she's actually really serious about this. So I said - well, I was renting at the time, you know? So I reached out, and I was like, I am 100% interested...

(LAUGHTER)

WYATT: ...In this transaction.

CAMHI: The deal went through. In December 2020, Moss sold their home to Wyatt for what was left on the mortgage - $230,000. At the time, Zillow listed the fair market value of the home at more than $644,000. That means Wyatt walked away with more than $400,000 in home equity.

Lily Copenagle is an organizer with the all-volunteer PDX Housing Solidarity Project. The group was born out of the home sale between Wyatt and Moss.

LILY COPENAGLE: This is a redistribution of the wealth that should have been accumulating for these families from the beginning.

CAMHI: Its goals are to educate people about racial disparities in homeownership by encouraging people to redistribute their wealth. There are complications, though. PDX Housing Solidarity specifically helps white homesellers sell only to Black and Indigenous people, but the Federal Fair Housing Act protects people against discrimination when buying a house.

There is a workaround, says Willamette University law professor Paul Diller - if a property is not advertised and realtors are not used.

PAUL DILLER: If I want to sell my property to my brother, I don't have to list it. I can just make a deal with him, and that obviously had the effect of excluding anybody who wasn't my brother's race or religion.

CAMHI: It's also easier to do this kind of transaction in Portland because it doesn't have property tax and real estate transfer tax complications that might prove difficult elsewhere.

So we're walking into the backyard?

WYATT: To the backyard - yep - which needs - it's going to be getting some work done.

CAMHI: The median home price in Randal Wyatt's neighborhood is now $750,000, according to real estate company Redfin. He's not planning on selling anytime soon. He wants to hold onto the home for his twin teenage sons. PDX Housing Solidarity launched last year and has so far helped seven families buy homes in Portland. Sometimes, the group connects people who will sell below market prices. Other times, it facilitates cash gifts for down payments.

WYATT: One thing our country has not done for white people who actually know the history and actually want to do something to change the future is provide a clear path of reconciliation.

CAMHI: And he says this is just one way for white people who support reparations to take action now, while a systemic approach to reparations continues at a much slower pace.

For NPR News, I'm Tiffany Camhi in Portland, Ore.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tiffany Camhi/OPB