Fair Housing Month in April is when REALTORS® generally put extra focus on equal housing opportunity. You got ahead of that annual commemoration this year, announcing a new Fair Housing Action Plan. What’s this initiative about?
The 2019 report by New York Newsday that revealed patterns of alleged racial and ethnic discrimination by real estate agents on Long Island was very troubling. The newspaper’s reporting underscored the need for us to take greater action. NAR’s leadership team and I are taking these revelations seriously.
What steps is NAR taking?
In January, the leadership team voted unanimously to support an initiative we’re calling ACT! because it focuses on accountability, culture change, and training.
NAR will be working closely with state associations to ensure that state licensing laws include effective fair-housing training requirements and hold real estate agents accountable for their fair housing obligations. We’ll also be launching a public service announcement that reaffirms NAR’s commitment to fair housing. Consumers need to understand how to report problems they encounter.
Our efforts complement actions already underway by the Long Island Board of REALTORS® and the New York state association to strengthen the promise of fair housing.
What about outreach to brokers?
We’re looking into developing a voluntary self-testing program in partnership with a fair housing organization. This would be a resource for brokers and others who want confidential reports on agent practices so they can address potential violations. We are also redoubling efforts to work for greater diversity in our industry.
You met with U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson about fair housing right after approving this plan? How did that meeting go?
It was extremely positive. We agreed that working together we can amplify our messages about the importance of equal access to housing.
We understand this effort was underway even before the Newsday article hit. Why?
Making positive impacts on affordability and equality is actually one of our strategic priorities this year. We know that the rate of homeownership varies greatly by race and ethnic group, and African American homeownership fell to an all-time low in 2019. As a country and as an industry, we can do better—and we will.