Fair housing issues have moved to the forefront of national discussion recently, and state and local REALTOR® associations are working to champion change. For Fair Housing Month in April, associations organized innovative events and activities with the goal of raising awareness among members and the general public about discrimination in housing and what can be done to build a better, more equitable present and future.
The Saint Paul Area Association of REALTORS® in Minnesota developed a slate of creative, distance-friendly activities and events to keep REALTORS® and the community engaged all month long, says Becky Wegscheid, the association’s government affairs director. One major initiative was the creation of formal fair housing proclamations in conjunction with area officials, based on the National Association of REALTORS®’ draft proclamation available at the REALTOR® Party website. Wegscheid said in February that SPAAR hoped to have at least two dozen city and county governments participate.
April editions of SPAAR’s videos and podcasts have a fair housing focus and include an invitation to members to sign the Fair Housing Declaration available at nar.realtor. Other activities include the display of SPAAR’s “Owning Up!” exhibit, co-produced with the local Mapping Prejudice project; resource kits mailed to all members; special educational opportunities, such as SPAAR’s “Owning Up!” class; and an all-ages coloring contest. Wegscheid credits the association staff for the variety in SPAAR’s Fair Housing Month program. “Every staff member has been involved in creating this,” she says.
The focus for the Chicago Association of REALTORS® was on bringing in topnotch speakers, says Kristopher Anderson, director of government and external affairs. At press time, CAR was set to host Marcia Fudge, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, at the association’s Fair Housing Month Fireside Chat event, to be held via Zoom.
For CAR, part of promoting Fair Housing Month is acknowledging the difficulties of the past; one of 2020’s speakers was a Cook County commissioner whose father had experienced housing discrimination. “We acknowledge the past,” Anderson says, “and we’re also cognizant of our achievements as an association. We’re making great strides and trying to be good leaders.”
The Akron Cleveland Association of REALTORS® in Ohio kicked off its Fair Housing Month activities at the end of March by offering the National Association of REALTORS®’ “At Home With Diversity” certification course, says Jamie McMillen, vice president of government affairs. All ACAR staff members have earned the certification, she adds.
McMillen says the association encouraged local mayors to officially declare April Fair Housing Month in their cities, and ACAR staff hoped to meet with area Realtists, members of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, if local health regulations permitted. Additionally, the association is offering an “Introduction to Gender Identity & Pronouns” class as part of an ongoing diversity series developed with The Diversity Center, a local nonprofit.
The Ann Arbor Area Board of REALTORS® worked with the nonprofit Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan on Fair Housing Month activities, says AAABOR CEO Tom Renkert. AAABOR is asking members to publicly pledge their support to federal, state, and local fair housing laws and to make a donation to the FHC’s mission. Supporting REALTORS®’ names will appear in an ad in the April edition of the Ann Arbor Observer. AAABOR is also sponsoring the FHC’s annual Fair Housing Breakfast benefit, set for October.
Texas REALTORS®’ plans included promoting fair housing across all channels—social media, email, magazine, and website—to members in April, says Angela Brutsche, vice president of communications and marketing. The association is offering educational programs that promote fair housing, such as the AHWD course, “What’s Fair in Fair Housing,” and “United Texas: Housing Initiatives That Work.”
Keeping the public informed about REALTORS®’ commitment to fair housing is also a priority, Brutsche notes, and Texas REALTORS® planned consumer outreach on radio, digital, email, print, and social media channels. These efforts incorporate NAR’s fair housing messaging and ad components, Brutsche says, since they “are eye-catching and quickly convey a strong message.”
For more Fair Housing Month activity ideas or information on applying for NAR fair housing grants, contact Wendy Penn, NAR’s housing opportunity manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-383-7504.