Directors Take Strong Action to Curb Hate Speech
The National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors took historic action today to strengthen REALTORS®’ commitment to fair housing. Directors approved recommendations to:
- Extend the application of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics through the addition of a new Standard of Practice prohibiting the use of harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs against the protected classes.
- Amend professional standards policy, expanding the applicability of the Code of Ethics to all of a REALTOR®’s activities.
- Add guidance to the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual to help professional standards hearing panels apply the new Standard of Practice.
- Revise the NAR Bylaws, expanding the definition of “public trust” to include all discrimination against the protected classes under Article 10 along with all fraud.
- Continue the requirement for associations to share with the state real estate licensing authority final ethics decisions holding REALTORS® in violation of the Code of Ethics in instances involving real estate–related activities and transactions where there is reason to believe the public trust may have been violated.
The recommendations came from the Professional Standards Committee but were also formally supported by the Diversity, Fair Housing Policy, Professional Development, and Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction committees before going before the Board of Directors. NAR has produced training and resource materials to assist leaders with understanding and implementing the changes and will be rolling those out in the coming weeks.
The changes are effective immediately; however, they are not retroactive to speech or conduct that occurred before the effective date.
New MLS Rules
Directors also approved a series of recommendations aimed at bringing more consistent standards to REALTOR®-owned MLSs across the country. Among other things, the rules require participants to correct accuracies in their MLS listings, and require MLSs to put processes in place to flag potential fair housing violations and notify brokers so the language can be corrected. The new rules go into effect Jan. 1, 2021, and the local implementation deadline is March 1, 2021.
Core Standards Changes
Directors approved five amendments to the association Core Standards requirements to:
- Acknowledge that associations may meet the existing advocacy and consumer outreach requirements through activities that demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and fair housing.
- Require that association strategic plans include a diversity, equity and inclusion, and a fair housing component.
- Require associations to annually certify that they have conducted or promoted a diversity, equity and inclusion, and fair housing activity with options that take into consideration association membership size and diversity.
- Require that leadership development education/training for association volunteer leadership include a commitment to greater diversity, equity, and inclusion; increase leadership education and awareness of the Core Standards; and ensure greater understanding of staff and volunteer leadership roles and responsibilities.
- Require associations to have the ability to interact with members in a remote work environment via a virtual meeting platform.
Federal Policy Issues
In other actions, the directors
- Approved a policy recommending a new leadership structure for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, consisting of a bipartisan, five-person panel with panel members appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
- Approved tax relief policies that would:
- Bring relief for homeowners who are discouraged from selling their home because of the tax burden that would result from the current capital gains tax rules. The current rules exacerbate housing inventory shortages and force people to stay in a home even when it no longer meets their needs.
- Lower the barriers to the creation of more residential For Sale inventory. Examples of such incentives: tax credits for converting commercial properties to residential units and tax credits for training or hiring residential construction workers.
- Approved a number of changes to NAR’s land use, property rights, and environment policy positions, including streamlining and modernizing language on global climate change to emphasize the risk to real estate and sustainability.
Vetting Officer Candidates
Directors approved a recommendation to establish a process for conducting a social media audit as part of the process of reviewing Potential Candidates for NAR office.
NAR Treasurer John Flor reported that membership in the association has hit an all-time high, surpassing the previous record set in 2007, and projected 1,424,000 paid members by the end of 2020. While non-dues revenue is off projections by about $10 million, it is more than made up by cost savings achieved through a hiring freeze, reduced travel as a result of the pandemic, and other measures. Flor also reported that the association has provided $25.5 million in programming to members through the Right Tools, Right Now program.
Directors approved an action item requiring NAR’s Advocacy team to have about $6.5 million in reserves set aside. This is in addition to association’s required operating reserves, which are set at a minimum of 50% of the operating budget and targeted at 70% of the budget.
Governance PAG Report
Sharon Millett, chair of the Governance Game Changer Presidential Advisory Group, gave directors a status report on her group’s work. The group was appointed in 2018 with a three-year charge of looking at the governance structure and policies of NAR. Millett, who served as NAR president in 1999, said the PAG will bring structural change recommendations forward in 2021.