Emphasizing Equity

Diversity and fair housing are now minimum requirements for REALTOR® associations.

Last year, the Association Executives Committee appointed a work group to review the National Association of REALTORS®’ Core Standards program and the process it uses to hear appeals. As world events unfolded, however, our priorities shifted: A review of the hearing process moved to the back burner, and the changes ultimately put forth focused on social issues in response to the current environment.

The purpose of Core Standards is to establish a minimum level of service that members can expect from any local REALTOR® association they join. NAR is not the only organization to have such standards: National and international associations throughout the world maintain standards for affiliation to help ensure legal compliance as well as strategic alignment with the parent organization.

The work group met six times in 2020. We pored through research and examined every requirement, asking ourselves, “Should this be core to a local REALTOR® association?” We concluded that the original Core Standards advisory group did an incredible job and established a solid foundation.

The original Core Standards include requirements for ethics, advocacy, consumer outreach, unification efforts and support of the REALTOR® organization, technology, and financial solvency. However, the work group agreed that two very important aspects were missing: DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and fair housing. The Diversity in Leadership Workgroup reached a similar conclusion.

I’ve learned a lot about racial inequity in the United States in the last year. The issue was pushed to the forefront of the national conversation following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, and the ensuing protests.

I read The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. The major takeaway is that REALTORS® and REALTOR® associations, along with banks, housing providers, regulators, and government agencies at all levels, played a major role in segregating neighborhoods and creating inequities in housing that still exist today. It should be required reading for all REALTORS® and association executives.

Accepting Responsibility

NAR has owned up to its responsibility for being on the wrong side of history regarding the Fair Housing Act of 1968. In November, NAR President Charlie Oppler apologized for past NAR policies that supported racist practices including steering, redlining, and creating covenants that prohibited nonwhite people from living in certain communities. The apology felt like a natural evolution of the work NAR has done over the past three or four years to not only acknowledge the past but also plot a new way forward.

That new path is important, because many of the problems created by the discriminatory policies of the past remain unresolved today. It is incumbent upon REALTOR® associations all over the country to take up this work.

We need to better understand the backgrounds of our members and the markets they serve. We need to actively seek out members of marginalized groups and encourage them to get involved so that our boards of directors look like our general memberships. We need to train volunteer leaders and staff about the benefits of diverse perspectives. We need to engage with community leaders to advance housing opportunity. We need to raise awareness about fair housing among consumers, educate our members, and assist with reporting violations. All of these things should be core to operating a REALTOR® association.

Our associations come in many different shapes and sizes, and they serve different markets. Some have large staffs, while others employ a single part-time executive. Some have multimillion-dollar budgets, while others struggle to meet costs. Those variations make it impossible to create a one-size-fits-all solution to any problem.

That’s why the new DEI and fair housing requirements in the Core Standards, approved by the NAR Board of Directors in November, list a range of possible qualifying activities—everything from promoting NAR’s Implicit Bias video to hosting a large-scale fair housing event. Everyone should be able to find rightsized solutions for their organizations.

The other modification to the Core Standards was in the technology section, which previously required associations to have only a website and email. The pandemic has taught us that associations must be able to conduct business remotely, so Core Standards now dictate that we must be able to conduct meetings remotely. Check out “You’ve Gone Virtual. Now What?” to survey the options.

In the coming year, you can expect to see a plethora of opportunities to learn about Core Standards. You’ll also see an improved reporting tool and related resources to help satisfy the requirements. Many thanks to those who served on the Core Standards Work Group. It has been an honor to chair, and I believe these changes will “move the needle” for our members and housing consumers alike.

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