Diversity Groups Target Hate by ‘Vocal Minority’ in Real Estate

Organizations representing Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ and women professionals say persistent discrimination in housing must be stopped.

Four major organizations representing diverse groups in the real estate profession have joined forces to fight what they call a “vocal minority” targeting underserved populations.

“Enough is enough,” said Erin Morrison, president of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, at a press conference this week announcing the “Stop Hate in Real Estate” initiative, which also includes the Asian Real Estate Association of America, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and a group backed by the California Association of REALTORS® called “WomanUP!”

“It’s time to take back the reins and stamp out hate,” Morrison said. “By doing so, we allow real estate professionals around the nation to prosper. They not only recognize, accept and understand diversity in growing their business opportunities, but at the same time, they’ll be removing potential barriers to homeownership that can create life-altering security. This all starts within the walls of the real estate industry.”

Article 10 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics prohibits discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, among other protected classes. Morrison said she believes the overall majority of real estate professionals are against discrimination and hate, but “they are unsure where to turn to impact change.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, the groups addressed recent upticks in hate crimes against Asian Americans and other diverse groups. NAHREP addressed stereotypes related to anti-immigration efforts that it says are stifling homeownership opportunities among Hispanics. LGBTQ+ families shared how discrimination in their communities forced them to move. WomanUP!, which supports women in leadership positions within real estate, addressed recent allegations of sexual harassment in the real estate industry.

The four groups vowed to raise awareness of discrimination on multiple fronts in real estate, announcing a new website, StopHateinRealEstate.org, which includes a pledge that real estate professionals and brokerages can sign to commit to affecting change within the industry. The groups also plan to advocate for greater awareness of how discrimination manifests in real estate transactions and provide education and tips on how to report violations via an NAR ethics complaint.

Discrimination Barriers

Eleven percent of Americans who say they’re likely to sell their home and move within the next year cited discrimination in their neighborhood as the primary reason for their relocation decision, according to a recent survey from Redfin. A separate survey from NAR showed that one in six prospective home buyers across races and ethnicities reported facing discrimination. More than half of Black (63%), Asian (60%) and Hispanic (52%) prospective buyers who reported discrimination say they believe it was due to their race or ethnicity, according to NAR’s report, “2023 Experiences & Barriers of Prospective Home Buyers Across Races/Ethnicities.” Respondents say the discrimination they experienced took the form of steering toward or away from specific neighborhoods and more strict requirements for mortgage approval.

‘We Felt Forced to Move’

At Tuesday’s press conference, homeowners shared their experiences of feeling forced to leave their neighborhoods due to discrimination from residents or growing concern over state laws. Brianna Hurley shared how her family moved from Las Vegas to Fort Worth, Texas, in 2015. Her child came out as transgender and had gender-affirming surgery in 2020. Soon after, Hurley said, her family felt ostracized from their community. “We felt like we had to put our home up for sale at a time when interest rates were rising. Our home sat on the market for five months. We took a huge loss, and the move financially wrecked us. We should have never been forced to move because of who my child is.”

A United Voice

“An attack on one of us is an attack on all,” Morrison said.

Sara Sutachan, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at WomanUP!, pointed to recent examples of sexual harassment in real estate as an example of “why it’s so important for us to come together to lessen divisiveness, discrimination and the venom we’re seeing today. We’ve seen that type of courage in our industry where women have stepped up and have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment. We’re committed, with all the organizations represented today, to break down and root out discrimination and harassment in our industry.”

AREAA CEO Hope Atuel cited FBI data showing a 57% uptick in hate crimes and discrimination toward the AANHPI community between 2020 and 2021. “The hate has escalated toward housing and shelter,” she said. AREAA is concerned by a growing number of “alien land laws,” like one in Florida that restricts the ability for foreigners from countries deemed as U.S. adversaries to purchase American land. This includes citizens from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.

“We understand as a community the importance of national security, but these discriminatory bills and laws instead create increased discrimination against the AANHPI community,” Atuel said. “Real estate professionals can be found liable for working with Chinese people in these real estate transactions. This could make real estate agents and the public nervous to work with us.”

The Hispanic community, too, has not been immune to discrimination in real estate, said NAHREP President Nuria Rivera. She cited a survey from the Brookings Institution showing that 29% of Hispanics view anti-immigration ads as a sign they aren’t wanted in the U.S. Rivera said the Hispanic homeownership rate, which lags way behind Whites, is evidence of the existence of housing discrimination. “Racism and discrimination are a big reason [for the discrepancy in homeownership rates], as much as people like to pretend it’s not,” Rivera says.

NAHREP, like the other groups at Tuesday’s press conference, say they will have more to share in the coming weeks as their initiative gets underway. “We want to help the real estate industry lead in a diverse way,” Rivera says. “People of different minds and different backgrounds can bring so much to the table. That’s why diversity is so important.”

Resurces to Fight Discrimination

NAR advocates on Capitol Hill for strong fair housing enforcement and policies to close homeownership gaps among demographic groups. The association also offers several resources and training to its members that aim to prevent housing discrimination, including: