Retail Follows Rooftops: Commercial Real Estate & The Importance Of Fair Housing: A Note From the President, Elizabeth Mendenhall

On April 11, 1968, seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. The Act states “It is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States”, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin. Six years later, the Act was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex, and in 1988, the Fair Housing Amendments Act extended protection to persons with a disability and families with children. The requirements of the Act, and in addition, equal opportunity based on sexual orientation and gender identity, are incorporated into our REALTORS® Code of Ethics. 

This year marks the Fair Housing Act’s 50th Anniversary, and the National Association of REALTORS® has joined forces with our partners and allies in a yearlong awareness and action campaign.  As REALTORS® who practice commercial real estate, perhaps you’re questioning why or how this campaign matters to your business.  While applications of the Fair Housing Act apply to residences only, fair housing makes us all stronger! The adage “retail follows rooftops” reminds us that we all have a stake in building dynamic, accessible communities. Fair housing is so much more than a list of dos and don’ts, rights and penalties, and mandatory continuing education.  It touches on the core of who we are as REALTORS® and what we do, day in and day out, building strong communities, protecting property interests and promoting a vibrant business environment. Our businesses and livelihood depend on a free, open market that embraces equal opportunity− the Fair Housing Act helps to make this possible. 

The 50th Anniversary was highlighted throughout the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C., May 14–19, including at a special event at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Commemoration activities underscored how far we’ve come as both a society and as an association—and, more importantly, how much work still needs to be done. REALTORS® understand that our voices matter in this discussion- it’s why 10,000 REALTORS® descended upon our nation’s Capital annually to engage our legislators on issues that protect and promote private property rights.

When legislators and regulators meet with our members they become keenly aware of the key role real estate plays in the health of our nation and are more likely to champion and safeguard REALTORS® interests. It’s critical for our policymakers to understand that REALTORS® who practice commercial real estate help revitalize communities by facilitating investments and promoting the sale and lease of commercial properties, enhancing neighborhoods and creating millions of jobs across the country. Our presence in Washington during the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings was a reminder that commercial practitioners help create the business and services that power great communities.

With the recent passage of HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, we saw the difference REALTORS® can make when we come together and speak with one voice. NAR advocated strongly in support of HR 620, and I want to thank all of you who responded to our call-for-action ahead of the floor vote. Your action mattered! NAR looks forward to working with the Senate on crafting a companion bill and ultimately working to see this legislation passed into law.

Advocacy is a vital component of what REALTORS® do as stewards of the right to own, use and transfer private property. The Fair Housing Act is integral to our mission. 

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