The Diversity Committee met today in front of packed house during the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. This is always a very popular committee, especially in light of the National Association of REALTORS®' commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The committee members had a few phone conferences leading up to the meeting, and we worked hard to come together and accomplish goals in an efficient manner.
Here's a recap of five of the biggest issues the committee discussed:
1. The Equality Act
- HR 5 is expected to pass Friday, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. It amends the Civil Rights and Fair Housing Acts.
- The timing was intentional so that we can get this passed before Pride Month in June.
- At NAR, support for the expansions included in the Equality Act passed our delegate body in overwhelming support—93 percent in 2009.
- As REALTORS®, we are bi-partisan on this issue, and equal opportunity is a no-brainer.
- This is the message we need to give as members every day. We are committed to fair and equal treatment under the law.
The commentary from the White House and from members of the House and Senate opposed to the bill is not housing related. NAR does not have a position on women’s sports, transgender bathrooms, etc. But we DO have an opinion on housing. As members of NAR lobbying the capital, we need to show that there is bi-partisan support of the measure to the Senate body. We think it will be a three-year process to become law, but it’s important to Fair Housing to keep the message going. And, we are hoping that policy won’t take a backseat to politics.
I also want to commend this committee on how well we raised this issue last year to Congress. We will work hard to get this done.
2. Disparate Impact
- Disparate impact is unintentional discrimination. When a person or policy doesn’t intend to discriminate but has a discriminatory effect.
- Disparate impact can be proven with statistics.
- When people are discriminated against, harm is done to the industry.
- For example, a 20 percent down payment is not discriminatory on its face, but it has a potential broader impact on some protected classes, which potentially violates the Fair Housing Act. Is there another way to figure out if someone is capable of paying back a mortgage loan without using the 20 percent down payment?
- NAR sent a letter to HUD respond to their request for our comments. Read NAR's policy here.
3. Assistance Animals
- HUD has stated that they will provide guidance on assistance animals in house.
- The guidance is finished and is in the hands of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
- OMB says there was too much guidance given overall, so we at NAR are just waiting for a resolution.
- Notably, now the Justice Department and other federal departments are planning to issue opinions since it has to do with Fair Housing as well.
4. Congressional House Testimony on African American Homeownership Rates
- JoAnne Poole, an active real estate professional for 33 years and vice chair of the Multicultural Real Estate Leadership Advisory Group, talked about her congressional visit and testimony on how the African-Homeownership rate of 41 percent is the same level as it was when Fair Housing was first enacted.
- Jeffrey Hicks, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, also testified in front of Congress; his testimony is provided online.
5. Facebook and HUD
- HUD charged Facebook with violations of the Fair Housing Act.
- As a result, Facebook removed its option for targeting by ZIP Codes (along with protected classes) for housing-related advertising.
- During today’s committee meeting, we had a lengthy discussion on targeted marketing and use of ZIP Codes in social media advertising, which many find to be important for their business.