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U.S. pending home sales race to record high in August

FILE PHOTO: A home for sale sign hangs in front of a house in Oakton, on the day the National Association of Realtors issues its Pending Home Sales for February report, in Virginia March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Contracts to buy U.S. previously owned homes surged to a record high in August, suggesting housing market activity was gathering speed amid record-low mortgage rates.

The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, jumped 8.8% to an all-time high of 132.8 last month. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast pending home contracts, which become sales after a month or two, rising 3.4% in August.

Pending home sales increased 24.2% from a year ago. The housing market has pressed ahead even as the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown millions out of work. The unemployment burden has fallen disproportionately on low-wage earners in the services industry, who tend to be young.

There has been a surge in demand for housing in suburbs and low-density areas as Americans seek spacious accommodation in the new work-from-home era.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging below 3%, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. Reports this month showed a surge in homebuilder confidence in September, and an acceleration in single-family home construction and sales of both new and previously owned homes in August.

Last month, pending home sales rose in all four regions.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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Trump issues order banning certain types of race training from federal contractors, grant recipients

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday evening that banned certain race and sex-based training from federal contractors, as well as the military and federal agencies — a follow-up move to a previous memo to end “critical race theory” and “white privilege” training for executive employees that the Trump administration has called “anti-American propaganda.”

A memo earlier this month from Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought on the same issue applied just to “executive branch agencies.” The Tuesday order said that “Executive departments and agencies… our Uniformed Services, Federal contractors, and Federal grant recipients” are required to avoid such trainings that “are pushing a different vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual.”

The order adds: “This ideology is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.”

TRUMP ENDS ‘CRITICAL RACE THEORY’ TRAINING FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, CALLS IT A ‘SICKNESS’

Trump announced the order in a pair of tweets.

“A few weeks ago, I BANNED efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies,” Trump said. “Today, I’ve expanded that ban to people and companies that do business … with our Country, the United States Military, Government Contractors, and Grantees. Americans should be taught to take PRIDE in our Great Country, and if you don’t, there’s nothing in it for you!”

As examples of things that would be against the new rules, the executive order lists a training from Argonne National Laboratories that

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Race and Sex Stereotyping EO Affecting Federal Contractors

On September 22, 2020, President Donald Trump signed an executive order titled “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping.” The executive order follows a September 4, 2020, memorandum from Russell Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and introduces requirements for government contractors conducting diversity and inclusion (D&I) trainings. It is clear from the order that covered contracts, subcontracts, and grants with the U.S. federal government must control for specific language related to workplace trainings, but the order otherwise lacks guidance about  changes covered contractors must make when training on D&I issues. Additionally, the order will almost certainly elicit constitutional and other legal challenges.

The executive order sets out to prohibit government contractors from, among other things, “stereotyping” and “scapegoating” in their workplace trainings. This language reflecting on D&I workplace trainings comes from section 4(a), “Requirements for Government Contractors,” which directs government contracting agencies to include four numbered paragraphs in non-exempt government contracts. The first numbered paragraph states,

The contractor shall not use any workplace training that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating, including the concepts that (a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously; (c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (d) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (e) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race

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Homes in Black and Latino neighborhoods still undervalued 50 years after US banned using race in real estate appraisals | The Conversation

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Junia Howell, University of Pittsburgh and Elizabeth Korver-Glenn, University of New Mexico

(THE CONVERSATION) The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Racial inequality in home values is larger today than it was 40 years ago, with homes in white neighborhoods appreciating $200,000 more since 1980 than comparable homes in similar communities of color.

Our new research on home appraisals shows neighborhood racial composition still drives unequal home values, despite laws that forbid real estate professionals from explicitly using race when evaluating a property’s worth. Published in the journal Social Problems, our study finds this growing inequality results from both historical policies and contemporary practices.

In the 1930s, the federal government institutionalized a process for evaluating how much a property was worth. Often called redlining, this process used neighborhood racial and socioeconomic composition to determine home values. Homes in white communities were deemed more valuable than identical dwellings in communities of color.

Legislative action in the late 1960s and 1970s prohibited this practice. But the law allowed appraisers to use past sale prices to determine home values. Our research shows how using old, race-based sale prices ensured appraisers continued to define homes in white neighborhoods as worth more than similar homes in Black and Latino communities. Racism was baked into the system.

Real estate professionals compound these historical inequalities by assuming communities of color are undesirable, even when real estate demand suggests otherwise.

Why it matters

For most U.S. families, their home is their greatest asset. As their home appreciates in value, their wealth increases, enabling them to fund their retirement, their children’s college educations or unexpected expenses like large medical bills.

The racial inequality in home values

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