Published in Inman
The connection between race and real estate throughout our country's history is undeniable and remains a key factor in current racial wealth gaps. In recognition of this fact, NAR consistently advocates at the federal level for strong fair housing and fair lending enforcement, as well as for federal policy that will help close homeownership gaps among demographic groups. In addition to our federal advocacy, NAR operates a number of innovative and impactful fair housing activities, programs, and partnerships, many of which have been launched since I became CEO of this association in 2017.
As the nation's largest trade association, NAR has a powerful voice we can use for good, and I hold myself and our executive team responsible for integrating the principles of fair housing (and relatedly, diversity, equity, and inclusion) into the fabric of this association.
While there is always more that can and should be done to ensure REALTORS®—as members of NAR—are intentionally working to eliminate discrimination from real estate, I am proud of all this association has accomplished in this space over the past half decade.
Among a host of tangible initiatives we've undertaken this past year to close homeownership gaps among racial groups are successful advocacy for reduction of insurance premiums on Federal Housing Administration loans; reduced fees on loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and support for the creation of Special Purpose Credit Programs to meet the specific credit needs of populations that have endured historic discrimination. NAR has also supported HUD's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, the Government Sponsored Enterprises' Equity Plans, and increased funding for fair housing enforcement.
Furthermore, NAR is actively engaged in affirmative efforts to help this nation overcome its legacy of discrimination. NAR is a founding member and co-chair of the Black Homeownership Collaborative (BHC), along with the National Urban League, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, among others. Together with this group, NAR drafted and has advocated for a seven-point plan with the end goal of creating three million new Black homeowners in America by 2030. Just this May I authored an article for The American Genius where I described BHC efforts already underway in Atlanta—where Freddie Mac estimates some 205,000 mortgage-ready Black millennials continue to rent.
Most recently, NAR's Board of Directors (BOD) passed a number of key motions at our latest Board meetings, held May 11, 2023. These motions mandate fair housing training for our 1.5 million members and, more immediately, make fair housing training a prerequisite for anyone currently serving on or seeking election to the BOD. Because half of all U.S. states do not require fair housing training as a condition of licensure, this policy will ensure every NAR member has a foundational understanding of their obligations under fair housing law. Emphasizing and enhancing such training, however, represents only the most basic elements of NAR's work to ensure our members are leading the charge to eliminate discrimination from real estate.
Several years ago, NAR hired the former head of HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, along with one of his key staff members, to help shape NAR's path forward on fair housing. Since then, we have added two additional staff members to shepherd our fair housing programs. Our signature fair housing initiative, ACT!, was developed by this team and stresses greater accountability, culture change, and enhanced training of real estate professionals. ACT! prioritized accountability among real estate professionals by creating a self-testing program where brokerages engage testers to monitor agent practices and report fair housing compliance to brokers. In addition to providing these tools to help brokerages self-police, the ACT! initiative developed best practices on how state licensure laws could be modified. This not only strengthens pre-license fair-housing training and continuing education, but also ensures real estate professionals who violate the law are held accountable. Finally, NAR called for more funding for federal enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. We are not aware of many trade associations who have taken such active steps to both self-police and promote stronger government enforcement of existing fair housing laws.
A more comprehensive overview of our fair housing efforts can be found at nar.realtor/fair-housing.Active work to reduce discrimination and promote housing opportunity for people of all backgrounds is critical to the health of our nation's housing market and to America's overall economy. That is why we encourage our members to continue doing everything in their power to ensure discrimination has no place in real estate—both in their communities and across the nation.