We have entered a new decade, but remain in some really interesting times. Despite a recent spike in hate crimes, we have seen a rise in the appreciation for, and understanding of, diverse groups. We hope that this understanding will work towards overpowering the divisive rhetoric and behavior of the few.
The National Association of REALTORS® has been far ahead in recognizing the importance of strong ethical and business practices involving diverse communities, and continues to work hard in this area.
We applaud NAR for introducing their Fair Housing Action Plan (ACT), which commits the REALTOR® community to continued ongoing training, accountability when NAR members violate fair housing laws, continued exposure to fair housing at all REALTOR® events and other critical activities.
Clearly, the November Newsday expose showed that even though NAR has been so progressive and supportive for so long, discrimination in the REALTOR® community still exists. We learned that 40 percent of Newsday’s undercover tests showed that “brokers subjected minority testers to disparate treatment when compared with white testers.” Black “testers” received unequal treatment 49 percent of the time, while Hispanics and Asians also received unequal treatment 39 percent and 19 percent of the time, respectively.
The article was a topic of conversation at December’s NAR Multicultural Real Estate Leadership Advisory Group, which I, along with NAGLREP members Jack Barry and Wayne Woodyard, attended with leadership from other major diverse organizations, including AREAA, NAHREP and NAREB. As we sat, listened and worked together, one thing stood out in my mind: #UsToo.
LGBTs were not included in the Newsday report, but housing discrimination against our community still exists and remains a major deterrent for LGBTs in their desire to be homeowners. NAGLREP has seen discrimination—and the fear of it—up close, and we continue to fight against it.
And NAR has been right there with us.
Back in 2011, NAR amended Article 10 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics to prohibit members from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. More recently, NAR pulled funding from former U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) after he disavowed Fair Housing rights for the LGBT community at the same time NAR was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.
NAR, along with so many NAGLREP partners—including Bank of America, HSF Affiliates, Keller Williams, Realogy, RE/MAX, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo—also stood tall in leading the effort to generate support for the Equality Act, which passed in the House of Representatives in May. This critical legislation would ban discrimination against the LGBT community in many areas, including housing and credit.
Had Newsday also explored discriminatory behavior against the LGBT community, we would likely have seen similar numbers. In fact, last year’s NAGLREP’s LGBT Housing Report showed that 46 percent of LGBT renters fear discrimination in their future home-buying process.
NAGLREP members believe this fear causes potential LGBT buyers to be anxious about being welcomed in a community, not having an offer accepted or even not being approved for a mortgage. These potential buyers are also cautious about hiring the right agent and mortgage professionals.
One of the most telling stats from our report was that 24 percent of NAGLREP members believe that potential LGBT buyers remain renters because of fear of discrimination. Add in that Freddie Mac found that the LBGT homeownership levels to be just 49 percent, and you can see that we have a challenge ahead of us.
Real estate professionals should all be united in showcasing the emotional and financial benefits of homeownership. While I believe most agent discrimination is of the unconscious variety—and not blatant—it’s time for all of us in the industry to understand that our actions have implications.
We see the need for NAR’s continued work on this front.
Our association website, NAGLREP.com, receives on average 75,000 unique visits per month from LGBT homebuyers, sellers and REALTORS® seeking an LGBT-friendly referral. Many of these visitors go far beyond asking to connect with an LGBT or ally member. They explain past instances of harassment and discrimination, articulate their fear of moving to a new town that might not welcome them and/or their children, and wonder if one community might be safer than another.
The common theme is that these potential clients are looking for an agent who understands that while buying a home is stressful, it is made even tougher when you are in the LGBT minority and crave a safe and welcoming community.
NAGLREP will continue to work with NAR and locally within our industry even more this year to showcase the challenges and opportunities the LGBT community has in attaining homeownership. And, at the local level, our nearly 40 chapters will engage with our corporate partners and LGBT non-profits—HRC, NGLCC, PFLAG, the Matthew Shepard Foundation and other prominent LGBT groups—to showcase the American Dream of homeownership to our underserved community.
Let’s turn #UsToo from a negative about discrimination into a positive. Together, we can turn the corner and make #UsToo representative of growing LGBT homeownership.