Guide to Developing Local Fair Housing Partnerships
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The 1960s saw an end to legal segregation. People of all racial and ethnic groups are able to attend the same schools, drink from the same water fountains, and live in the same neighborhoods. However, the reality is that in many communities de facto racial segregation still exists. This is especially so in places where people live and work.
Any review of America’s metropolitan areas shows that African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and other minorities tend to live outside predominantly white communities. The situation often reflects decisions made by individuals belonging to specific racial groups to live in non-racially-mixed communities. It can also reflect continuing discrimination in the nation’s housing markets.
If current demographic trends continue, the racial and ethnic mix of America is going to become even more diverse. The challenge ahead is to ensure that neighborhoods and communities reflect these trends, and that all people regardless of race or color, national orgin, gender, with our without disability and regardless of familial status, have freedom to choose the home and neighborhood of their choice. Fair Housing activities, whether through enforcement, education, voluntary programs or a combination of these, respond to a dream unrealized and the vision of a housing market free from discrimination.
HUD and NAR entered into their first Voluntary Affirmative Agreement in 1975, and after several revisions and renewals, the VAMA expired in December of 1996. The VAMA sought to encourage individual real estate firms to take appropriate steps to ensure that their agents followed the fair housing law. The VAMA also encouraged REALTORS® and real estate firms to support the “spirit of the fair housing law” through a variety of equal housing opportunity programs including outreach, advertising, equal employment practices, safeguards against racial steering and other steps, that helped housing to be marketed on an equal opportunity basis.
As successful and well intended as the VAMA was, it often placed process ahead of results and often worked against its objective of affirmatively furthering fair housing. The VAMA required endless reports and records on the status of member REALTOR® firms to a degree that left many important fair housing issues unaddressed.
The new HUD/NAR Fair Housing Partnership is results oriented and gives far less attention to process. The new Partnership focuses on the identification and eradication of housing discrimination in our communities. Because housing discrimination issues and priorities differ from community to community, the new national partnership is intentionally flexible and fluid. The HUD/NAR Partnership recognizes that fair housing is a collaborative endeavor requiring shared involvement by partners in activities such as training, self-testing, public education, affirmative marketing and the promotion of housing choice and opportunities across racial and ethnic lines.
The HUD/NAR Fair Housing Partnership is founded on the principle of providing support for and focusing attention on the implementation of local community initiatives. At the national level, HUD and NAR will regularly meet to identify national issues and concerns, develop joint strategies and actions to address housing discrimination, and review successes. In this ongoing fluid and flexible arrangement, the partnership’s determinations and actions on fair housing will likely change from year to year.
Because of the varying issues and differing circumstances in local communities, no specific model for a local partnership was developed by HUD and NAR. NAR, local associations and HUD field offices are encouraged to develop local fair housing partnerships based on the following principles of the national partnership:
Sharing responsibility for the achievement of fair housing,
Identifying fair housing issues and concerns,
Developing measurable strategies and actions to address identified issues and concerns,
Evaluating the success of actions taken, and
Determining future strategies and actions based on that evaluation.
This Fair Housing Partnership Guide, while based on the national partnership principles, offers alternative suggestions for developing and implementing partnerships. The Guide also provides helpful advice to those parties interested in ratifying or participating in an existing partnership.
WHY A PARTNERSHIP
Developing a Local Fair Housing Partnership
|Step 1: Preparing for Partnership at the Association of REALTORS®: |
Before meeting with HUD or other partners, it is important that the Association’s Equal Opportunity Committee discuss the new National Fair Housing Partnership Resolution and its implications. Although some state and local Associations have had good partnership arrangements in their communities, this new arrangement may be new, untried and untested, for many. The Association should review its past and ongoing fair housing efforts and assess the impact of its efforts to eliminate barriers and impediments to fair housing.
For example, fair housing education has proven to be successful in helping REALTORS® follow the law and affirmatively promote fair housing. Other efforts may not have been as effective. Association members should determine which fair housing efforts were successful and which new ones should be pursued in collaboration or partnership with others. If partners were involved in earlier efforts, how do they now feel about the future? The Association should be better prepared to deal with future arrangements after having reviewed past and present accomplishments, opportunities and problems.
After the Association has reviewed its fair housing history, it can begin to discuss the elements of a partnership on fair housing. The partnership principles discussed in the Introduction to this Guide are taken from the national HUD/NAR Resolution and are broadly focused so that they can serve as a helpful model for developing a local fair housing partnership. The Association should also discuss whether to invite other state or local REALTOR® Associations to be involved in its partnership efforts. It may make sense in some metropolitan areas and closely linked communities for NAR neighboring associations to work together on fair housing issues and concerns.. It may be advantageous in other areas for the State Association to coordinate efforts for a number of communities.
|Association of REALTORS® Fair Housing Program|
The Fair Housing Partnership recognizes that REALTORS® are committed to fair housing and will continue to seek up to date fair housing information and education. Members will expect the Association of REALTORS® to make sure that fair housing education materials and classes are available. In order to allow flexibility in the Association’s fair housing program for members, the new Fair Housing Partnership does not spell out an expected fair housing program for the state or local Association.
It is important that state and local Associations continue to address fair housing. Suggested components of an Association fair housing program are as follows:
- Assignment of fair housing issues to an appropriate governance body that has authority to recommend fair housing policies and programs. Traditionally, this assignment has been made to the Equal Opportunity Committee.
- Continued availability of up to date and accurate training for members on fair housing practices. NAR has two courses on fair housing, Fair Housing - Opening Doors to Equal Opportunity, and Fair Housing in the 90’s - Rental.
- Availability of fair housing information and materials for use by members. NAR publishes a Fair Housing Handbook, the What Everyone Should Know About Equal Opportunity in Housing brochure, and participant material for the two courses listed above. Continue the publication of fair housing information in your newsletters and other publications, including internet sites.
- Establish and maintain partnerships and coalitions. Use this Fair Housing Partnership Guide in these efforts.
|At the HUD Field Office:|
The HUD/NAR Partnership Resolution calls for a new approach to achieve Fair Housing. This new approach is based on the collective experiences of the past and a new appreciation for the challenges and opportunities of the future. This new approach emphasizes local partnerships and local community actions. The new approach is short on process and strong on possiblities, opportunities and results. The new approach is about leaving no one behind and providing housing opportunities for all.
It is within this context that HUD Field staff should begin a preliminary analysis to determine the current local fair housing environment and the relationship of that environment to present fair housing actions or inactions. The analysis should identify persons and organizations having influence and impact on fair housing issues in the community, and it should facilitate the identification of potential parties to a new local partnership arrangement.
Partnerships may already have been formed when communities embarked on the fair housing planning process put in motion by HUD. Fair housing organizations teamed up with local governments and others to analyze the obstacles - legal, practical, or political - to housing choice and equal opportunity. These same partnerships are now devising fair housing plans that address the impediments as they have been identified and prioritized.
|Step 2: Initiating Partnership and Approaching Potential Partners|
The national partners, HUD and NAR, are committed to encouraging local partnerships between HUD field offices and state or local Associations of REALTORS® . The partnership approach is new to much of HUD and NAR. This means that while some HUD offices and state or local Associations are already building partnerships, many others are learning how to move beyond the compliance model of the VAMA. The national partnership provides a model for discussion, planning, and action, whose success depends on local initiatives that anticipate and develop solutions to real problems.
Local partnership efforts may be initiated by state or local Associations, HUD field offices, or other organizations.
Potential Fair Housing Partners
Fair Housing Organizations- Fair housing organizations, including human relations commissions and voluntary, nonprofit organizations focusing on fair housing problems. For more information http://www.fairhousing.com.
Local Governments - Local governments in the metropolitan area or region (even if the jurisdiction is not participating in metropolitan or regional fair housing programs).
Advocacy Groups - Advocacy groups and organizations that have among their concerns the needs of particular segments of the population, such as people with disabilities; families with children; immigrants and homeless persons; and specific racial or ethnic groups.
Housing Providers - Housing provider representatives, in particular those who are aware of, and can speak to, the problems of providing moderate and low-cost housing in the community; and representatives of landlords/owners.
Banks and Other Financial Institutions - Banks and other financial institutions that can provide loans and other financial support to improve homes or areas of the community where living conditions have deteriorated.
Educational Institutions - Educational institutions and their representatives, including the administrators and teachers/professors who can assist in conducting studies and developing educational activities for delivery in formal and informal settings.
Other Organizations - Other organizations and individuals, such as neighborhood organizations and representatives, that can provide information, ideas, or support in identifying impediments to fair housing at the neighborhood or other geographic level and in developing and implementing actions to address these problems.
Before contacting and meeting potential partners, make sure you can clearly and succinctly state your objective for entering into a Fair Housing Partnership. Potential partners will want to know that you are serious about ending housing discrimination and helping people live and work together across racial and ethnic lines. You must be able to clearly articulate your goals, objectives and vision for the partnership. You must be prepared to sell the idea of support and involvement by others. You should also be prepared to listen carefully to what the other organizations are saying in their responses to your invitation and be prepared to meet more than once with each potential partner.
It is likely that many fair housing organizations will seek to develop partnerships and may take the lead in pulling together a broad spectrum of organizations to address fair housing issues in the community. If the Association of REALTORS® or HUD field offices are approached to participate in such a partnership, they should listen to and understand the goals and objectives of the potential partners and request that the partnership reach out to both the Association of REALTORS® and HUD field office.
HUD’s task after engaging in the process set forth in Step One (Preparing for Partnership) is to reach out to fair housing advocates, housing industry leaders, and all persons interested in fair housing partnering. HUD staff must make clear that their mission as a government agency is to find ways to build upon their strengths and supplement those strengths – not supplant them. HUD staff must make clear that their job and that of the Department is to build the capacity of other partners to the arrangement, so they can be more effective in helping to address fair housing issues and concerns in their local communities. HUD is expected to provide the legal and institutional framework for both voluntary fair housing efforts and enforcement, and to assist others in building the capacity to sustain success.
The overriding principle in approaching potential partners is to strengthen existing lines of communication or where none exist, establish them. In short – to establish relationships and begin a broad-based fair housing dialogue that can lead to a meaningfully local partnership. This approach ultimately should allow the participants to settle upon a common vision and to frame fair housing issues and concerns that can be addressed in collaboration.
Step 3 Reaching An Agreement
Step 4 Identifying Issues, Planning Actions and Evaluating Success
|Using the REALTOR® Fair Housing Declaration|
The new Fair Housing Partnership provides REALTORS® with a great deal of flexibility in developing fair housing practices. The ability to address fair housing in a manner that best fits a real estate firm’s business environment and style provides exciting opportunity, but raises many questions about the best way to take advantage of the opportunity. REALTORS® are encouraged to use the Fair Housing Declaration adopted by the National Partners to promote fair housing to the public and within their individual firms.
REALTORS® are not asked to sign a document with HUD to demonstrate a commitment to fair housing. That commitment is part of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, real estate license requirements and the laws of the land. Because there is no document to sign, there is no list or form outlining what every REALTOR® should do. Instead, NAR and HUD developed a declaration of general fair housing principles. This Fair Housing Declaration is available to any REALTOR® to use to promote fair housing to the public and within the firm. The declaration contains the following principles:
Provide equal professional service without regard to the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin of any prospective client, customer, or of the residents of any community.
This is required by law and training is available from NAR. The equal service model calls for the use of systematic procedures, using objective information, letting the customer set the limits, and offering a variety of choices. This commitment is included in the declaration as a basic principle of fair housing.
Keep informed about fair housing law and practices, improving my clients' and customers' opportunities and my business.
Fair housing education is an ongoing process. A basic fair housing course is a prerequisite, but must be supplemented because the law and community concerns change over time. Updates may be obtained from many sources including newsletters, classes, newspaper articles, discussions with community fair housing leaders, and office fair housing meetings. NAR’s fair housing course - Fair Housing - Opening Doors to Equal Opportunity contains several modules - from an introduction to fair housing to one tailored for brokers.
Develop advertising that indicates that everyone is welcome and no one is excluded; expanding my client's and customer's opportunities to see, buy, or lease property.
The law prohibits discriminatory advertising. You can take this one step further by using inclusive advertising that indicates everyone is welcome. For example, you may not use human models of only one race in a series of ads without risking a violation. Many advertisers have responded by not using human models at all. If you consciously use human models of multiple races in integrated settings you are indicating that everyone is welcome.
Inform my clients and customers about their rights and responsibilities under the fair housing laws by providing brochures and other information.
Letting clients and customers know about their fair housing rights and responsibilities is an important step towards ending discrimination in the housing market. Informed customers can better recognize discrimination and address it. The information also reduces the likelihood that you will be asked to discriminate or face a discriminatory decision by a client or customer.
Document my efforts to provide professional service, which will assist me in becoming a more responsive and successful REALTOR®.
Documentation is important not only for risk management, but also to assist you in learning where you can improve. Documentation also provides you with tools to help you solicit repeat business and gives you invaluable clues into market trends.
Refuse to tolerate noncompliance.
Noncompliance with fair housing laws impacts your ability to do business. Find ways to address those who appear to be violating the law and help them understand the importance of fair housing to your business - and theirs. If discrimination continues, you cannot in any way be associated with it. As a last resort, make sure any customers or clients who have been victim to the discrimination know how to file a complaint alleging discrimination. Remember, the law protects you too, and you may file complaints on your own behalf. Use the Code of Ethics to educate fellow REALTORS® as well.
Learn about those who are different from me, and celebrate those differences.
We live in an increasingly diverse nation. By the year 2010, nearly 1/3 of our nation’s population will be minority. We are not a melting pot and there are real differences in our cultures - not only based on race and ethnicity. It is important to learn about the differences between people and celebrate how those differences contribute to our society.
Take a positive approach to fair housing practices and aspire to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
Treat fair housing in a positive light - fairness and equal opportunity are key elements of a real estate market where there are no barriers to the ownership, use or transfer of real estate. Discrimination is an impediment; fair housing is the positive answer to discrimination. The spirit of the law is to provide for fair housing which means a free and equal choice based on complete information on the market. That is our business and we should be about the spirit of fair and open housing markets, not just following the letter of the law.
Develop and implement fair housing practices for my firm to carry out the spirit of this declaration.
A commitment to principles cannot be complete unless we have procedures in place and in use to address how those principles are to be implemented. Nothing substitutes for clear procedures outlining how we do business. These procedures can and should be tailored for you and your firm and should be flexible to meet your needs as well. Sample procedures are available in the NAR Fair Housing Handbook.
REALTORS®, working individually, in their firms, and through the association, can make the REALTOR® Fair Housing Declaration relevant to the fair housing issues REALTORS® and the community face every day.
The HUD/NAR Fair Housing Partnership represents a significant commitment by the National Association of REALTORS® , to take an aggressive role in eliminating housing discrimination. NAR realizes that America is becoming an increasingly multiethnic and multiracial society and that new polices and strategies are required to foster, access, mobility and opportunity in housing for all of its people.
The new HUD/NAR partnership represents the future and it seeks to undo the patterns of separate and unequal housing that are widespread throughout America. Housing discrimination places a devastating burden on racial minorities. The U.S. Supreme Court has found that whites can also be harmed by housing discrimination, for it violates their rights to associate with minorities.
The success of the new Partnership will depend upon the extent to which it is enthusiastically and successfully embraced in local communities, by NAR, HUD, policy makers, activists and regular citizens. The vision of the Partnership is that one day neighborhoods and communities will no longer be known as the white, black, Latino or Asian neighborhood or community, but simply as a neighborhood and a community.
Fair Housing Partnership - Frequently Asked Questions
I want to show support for Fair Housing. Do I have to use the Fair Housing Declaration contained in the Fair Housing Partnership resolution? Do I sign it? May I change it?
NAR and HUD encourage REALTORS® to adopt the REALTOR® Fair Housing Declaration. The declaration contains a broad set of fair housing principles. The importance of the declaration is the affirmative declaration in support of fair housing. There is no requirement to use the declaration, and there is no requirement that it be signed. You may make changes to the declaration, but, if so, it should no longer be called the REALTOR® Fair Housing Declaration.
What does the line in the Fair Housing Declaration about “Celebrating Differences” mean? I thought we were supposed to treat everyone equally.
We are a diverse nation and people have many different cultures. The law prohibits us from discriminating on several bases, including race and national origin. Understanding the cultural variables and celebrating our diversity enables us to better serve customers and clients from different cultures. We continue to provide equal professional service, but do so in a way that shows respect for the cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds of all people.
A number of our members are builders and developers and signed the VAMA in lieu of developing Affirmative Fair housing Marketing Plans. What do they need to do now if they want to offer FHA financing for their project, and what can I offer these members that they can’t get elsewhere?
The ending of the VAMA also ended the ability of firms to reference their REALTOR® VAMA status in lieu of developing individual Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plans. Any new developments where FHA financing is offered will not be approved by HUD unless there is an Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan. A Model Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan has been approved by HUD and NAR for REALTORS® to use.
The local HUD office wants our Board to hurry up and sign the new partnership agreement. How do we do that?
There is no specified agreement for the Board to sign with the local HUD office. The national Fair Housing Partnership encourages local HUD offices and REALTOR® Associations to enter into similar partnerships. You should meet with the HUD representative and discuss your shared goals and identify actions to address specific issues. Once this is done, you can decide whether a formal agreement between the Board and the local HUD office is needed.
Now that the VAMA has ended, does this mean my firm doesn’t have to worry about fair housing education and office procedures any more? I’m really glad I don’t have to keep Equal Service Reports anymore.
The VAMA was a voluntary program and contained a set of valuable fair housing practices, including fair housing education. The Fair Housing Act is still the law of the land and actions which result in housing discrimination can trigger a fair housing complaint. Penalties for violating fair housing laws can be severe, including the loss of a real estate license. Good, ongoing fair housing education is one of the best tools available to avoid the risk of violating the law. Record keeping, like the Equal Service Report Form, provides additional tools for a broker to monitor the firm’s agents and to use when defending against a complaint.