Committed to the Conversation: Why is the Homeownership Gap Still So Wide?

Expand all


In this bonus episode, we are joined by a member of the NAR staff, Alexia Smokler, a staff executive to NAR's Fair Housing Policy Committee. That description does not begin to convey all the work that she does on our behalf and on behalf of the clients we serve. She has been key in developing the Bias Override class and We are excited to discuss the programs she manages as well as learn what agents are doing in the marketplace, in this bonus episode.

[1:40] Monica welcomes and introduces Alexia Smokler, the Director of Fair Housing Policy and Programs for NAR. 

[2:19] Alexia discusses several of the educational programs she delivers such as Fairhaven, implicit bias training, NAR's Fair Housing Champion award, and licensure reform efforts under the ACT Initiative, which NAR rolled out after the Newsday investigation in Long Island.

[3:52] Monica asks Alexia for definitions of Fair Housing, DEI, and Implicit Bias.

[8:18] Alexia discusses the difference between prejudice and discrimination.

[8:50] It's important to distinguish that you can be engaging in discrimination without holding feelings of prejudice. This is discussed in the Implicit Bias course. 

[13:06] Alexia describes the Bias Override course. The problem with mental shortcuts is when they're about people and they're based on stereotypes. 

[16:57] The Bias Override course brings new terms to your mind. It helps you describe things you have felt and gives a name to it. Monica speaks of the trip she and her daughter took to Japan where there are not a lot of Westerners. 

[19:02] Alexia ties Monica's Japan experience to the Bias Override course. She had the experience of being the minority and being the out-group. 

[20:53] Alexia speaks of studies that show that discrimination shrinks the economy. The wealth they would have generated that would have created more jobs does not get created.

[21:56] Morgan Stanley's study found that lending discrimination had kept five million people out of home ownership nationwide.

[25:03] The wealth gap is not just attributable to differences in income. It's also because of the historical support of White people to become homeowners.

[25:48] Alexia tells how the government involved itself in home ownership. They created the FHA which distributed loans according to redlining maps and most of the mortgages went to White people. 

[26:54] Black GIs were not able to get mortgages from lenders. They didn't get to buy a house and pass that wealth down. 

[28:53] Lending discrimination is a big problem and it's not just against People of Color. It's also against women and people with disabilities. Loan officers need more Fair Housing training. Monica cites the books The Sum of Us and The Color of Law.

[31:30] In a couple of decades, we'll be a majority-minority country. There will be no one majority group. We need to be ready to serve different kinds of people or we will miss out.

[32:56] is an interactive real estate simulation. You go into a fictional town and your task is to sell four homes in six months. You go through different scenarios where you encounter different kinds of discrimination taken from real Fair Housing cases or members' FAQs. 

[43:09] The Fair Housing Champion Award was launched as part of the culture change around Fair Housing to celebrate people who are helping clients overcome historic barriers. Alexia discusses one applicant who stood out. 

[49:28] Alexia's final word: What agents do is much more important than a transaction. It's about the wealth that's generated from a transaction that will impact generations. 

[50:37] The minimum that agents can do is to keep the highest standard of compliance with the law and take training and classes. Alexia offers ideas on how to help make it better in your community.

[53:04] All NAR certification and designation courses give you skills that help you level up your business so you can serve all your clients and your community better.


"DEI supports Fair Housing. So, if we're inclusive, if we're diverse, and if we're open to different perspectives, then it naturally follows that we're going to treat consumers better because we have that lens on how we approach everybody." — Alexia Smokler

"Once you start making those assumptions, you're down a dangerous road." — Alexia Smokler

"Black folks earn 60% of the income that White people earn. But they have only about 12% of the wealth. … The average wealth of a White person [with] a high school education is higher than the wealth of a Black or Hispanic person who has a college education." — Alexia Smokler

"Loan officers need more Fair Housing training." — Alexia Smokler

About Alexia Smokler

Alexia Smokler represents NAR's positions on Fair Housing to Congress and federal agencies and leads NAR's ACT! initiative, which emphasizes Accountability, Culture Change, and Training to advance fair housing in the industry. She led the development of Fairhaven: A Fair Housing Simulation, and Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing. Alexia also oversees NAR's discrimination self-testing program for real estate brokerages, NAR's fair housing real estate licensure reform efforts, and other projects aimed at closing racial and ethnic homeownership gaps. Alexia serves as staff executive to NAR's Fair Housing Policy Committee and writes and speaks regularly on fair housing issues to audiences around the country. Her 2021 cover story for REALTOR® Magazine, Repairers of the Breach, won several awards for excellence in business-to-business journalism.

Before joining NAR, Alexia worked in fair housing enforcement at HUD, on the staff of Congressman John Conyers, Jr., and with nonprofit civil rights organizations. She is admitted to practice law in Maryland and holds a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs; and a bachelor's degree in government from Smith College. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.