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U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson addressed REALTORS® during the general session at the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo this week, discussing the Fair Housing Act and the issues related to it today. 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the legislation.

“There has been a lot of progress since the signing of this historic legislation 50 years ago,” said Carson. “Growing up in Detroit, where I experienced the struggles of discrimination firsthand, 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.”

Additionally, Carson discussed the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and lending.

“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,” Carson said.

After Carson’s keynote, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) gave an emotional speech, stating, “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.”

At the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 360 event, Immediate Past President Bill Brown also delivered an emotional and heartwarming personal story, as well as other stories, stating, “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.”

Later, NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall welcomed more than a thousand at a sold-out reception. The association 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,” said Mendenhall.

NAR is commemorating Fair Housing with initiatives throughout the year. The association’s Code of Ethics commits to current Fair Housing protections, as well as equality based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which are, at present, not protected by the regulation. NAR is advocating to change that this week.

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