Fair Housing Is Our Business

NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall says the 50th anniversary reminds us that the fight for equal housing access continues.
NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall

April 11 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the federal Fair Housing Act. Why is the commemoration a top priority for the National Association of REALTORS®? The right to own property, and to own a home, is the foundation of our business. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. NAR incorporates those requirements, as well as equal opportunity on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, into our REALTORS® Code of Ethics, because it makes our association, our industry, and our country stronger. Our commemoration of the Fair Housing Act is vital because it highlights how far we’ve come in promoting equal housing opportunity—both as a society and as an association—and, more importantly, how much work still needs to be done.

Why is it essential to acknowledge NAR’s past role in opposing fair housing law?The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. invoked the words of abolitionist Theodore Parker when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” NAR’s past opposition to fair housing law is a period in our association’s history that we must own—we must learn from it, and we must ensure REALTORS® are on the right side of history moving forward. Housing is not a special interest; it is a human right. NAR is committed to safeguarding this right.

How is NAR marking the anniversary? New training materials will help deepen your understanding of the law and the need for compliance. At fairhousing.realtor, REALTOR® associations and members can access campaign materials, including flyer and email templates; customizable print and banner ads; and articles, videos, and other content to help show the value fair housing brings to our industry and to communities. Our campaign is coordinating with multicultural real estate organizations. At the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C., May 14–19, fair housing will be the focus at a series of events throughout the week.

How can real estate pros advance fair housing initiatives in their market? Awareness is key. Brokers and agents need to know the rules in their area. Some municipalities have protected classes not included in the federal law. Clients may be surprised when we can’t answer a question regarding crime statistics or a neighborhood’s ethnic makeup, but it is always in our interest to be aware of and abide by fair housing rules. Ignoring the law can put our brokerage and our clients at risk of a lawsuit and significant financial penalties. Following the spirit and letter of the law takes us one step closer to ensuring everyone is free from housing discrimination.