WASHINGTON (May 16, 2018) — Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, joined thousands of members of the National Association of Realtors® at a general session today during the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

During the session, he discussed how the nation in addressing segregation and access to homeownership and what HUD is doing to tackle sexual harassment in housing and fair housing complaints around service animals.

“There has been a lot of progress since the signing of this historic legislation 50 years ago. Growing up in Detroit, where I experienced the struggles of discrimination first hand, I am inspired by the steps made to expand housing equality for Americans. HUD recognizes there is still so much work to do and feels strongly that in today’s society no one should have to worry about having a roof over their head based on their racial or sexual background,” Dr. Carson said. 

U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri), followed Dr. Carson with an emotional address about the importance of safe and affordable housing for all in America. “In 2018, somehow, we are still discussing getting fair housing legislation through Congress. I ask everyone to look back at the struggles minorities have endured during segregation and before fair housing laws were established. Your mission as REALTORS® is to make sure that in your part of the world, you preach and teach fair housing, because it is important to the future of this country,” said Cleaver.

Throughout the legislative meetings, REALTORS® are looking back and acknowledging NAR’s changing role in the fight for fair housing, understanding how the nation is constantly improving its commitment to fair housing and leading efforts to further advance fair housing policy issues.

Over the last few days, NAR has commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act with a series of moving events, highlighting firsthand accounts and experiences in the fight for fairness for all. During NAR’s 360 event yesterday, NAR Immediate Past President Bill Brown delivered an emotional and heartwarming story about his own journey rising above racism and then fighting at the highest levels of NAR for everyone’s equal rights to housing.

Brown touched on how REALTORS® are leaders in the fair housing movement and shared personal stories of the direct impact they make on a daily basis. “REALTORS® can be instrumental in erasing the lines that have divided us for over a hundred years. We are the ones who can remove the walls that have separated us in the past and build the neighborhoods and communities of the future.  We are the key to making housing fair,” Brown said.

Later in the evening, NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall welcomed more than a thousand at a sold-out reception, featuring REALTORS®, local artists and guest speakers. NAR commissioned a dramatic poem, led by spoken word artist Joseph Green, to highlight NAR’s and the American journey from fair housing opposition to support.  Among the backdrop of an iconic museum, Green and other speakers discussed NAR’s past and how the association advanced from opposing the landmark legislation to becoming leaders on the front lines of the battle for equal housing.

“NAR did not always have strong support for fair housing rights, but greater understanding of fair housing changed over time, and NAR eventually became a leader in efforts to expand those rights,” Mendenhall said.

In 1972, NAR began providing fair housing training materials and education to its members, and in 1988, NAR supported the expansion of the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on familial status and handicap or disability. Earlier this decade, REALTORS® further demonstrated their all-inclusive support of ensuring fair housing opportunities by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to their Code of Ethics. Since 2016, NAR has sought changes in the Fair Housing Act to also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  

Today, NAR continues to lead efforts that underscore its commitment to advancing fair housing through its advocacy efforts and extensive educational materials and information on diversity and fair housing laws, as well as programs and resources to help educate REALTORS® and associations across the country about the importance of inclusive housing practices and diverse homeownership.

Dr. Carson closed his remarks by saying that in the spirit of expanding fair housing, the Federal Housing Administration is playing an important role to help low-income individuals reach the American Dream of homeownership.

“We are examining programs to ensure a fair calculation of credit scores, and the FHA needs to take the lead in providing access to mortgage credit for those who don’t fit into the traditional credit model,” he said.

Realtors® are taking their message to Capitol Hill this week asking Congress to adopt sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the Fair Housing Act. As members of NAR, REALTORS® subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics, which includes a commitment to provide equal professional services regardless of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, and as of 2009, sexual orientation, and since 2014, gender identity.

For more information, visit www.FairHousing.realtor to learn about the commemoration, find materials and resources, and see what else REALTORS® are doing to advance fair housing.

The National Association of REALTORS® is America's largest trade association, representing 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.