Since the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, our nation has made great strides promoting equal housing opportunities for all Americans. Despite this progress, housing discrimination persists, and many of our metropolitan areas remain racially segregated.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has long been a champion of the Fair Housing Act and the critical role it plays in protecting the American Dream. In 2019, NAR undertook several initiatives to ensure Americans can purchase homes in communities of their choice, protecting their ability to build equity and accumulate wealth through homeownership. NAR looks to redouble those activities in 2020.
Last year, NAR implemented organizational reforms in order to better deliver on its fair housing obligations and commitments. Whereas, for decades, NAR’s Diversity Committee handled the association’s fair housing advocacy work, NAR in September created a new 45-person Fair Housing Committee in order to position the association as a committed and innovative leader within the industry.
I joined NAR in November 2019 as its director of Fair Housing Policy. In this role, I serve as the staff executive of the new Fair Housing Committee. I am also partnering with national fair housing groups and others to promote accountability among NAR’s membership, reinforce our association’s commitment to nondiscrimination and increase REALTOR® access to improved training programs.
The creation of the new Fair Housing Committee strengthens NAR’s existing Diversity Committee, allowing for a renewed focus on promoting diversity and inclusion in the REALTOR® association, developing programs and services geared toward the needs of minority members and cultivating NAR’s relationships with multicultural real estate organizations and other important stakeholders. The Diversity Committee works closely with the Fair Housing Committee, recognizing that an inclusive and engaged membership, coupled with strong partnerships among minority communities, helps shape more informed and impactful public policy on fair housing. For example, the committees will work collectively throughout 2020 with the intention of bridging the homeownership gap between white and minority homeowners.
This past year saw incidents that underscored the need for the National Association of REALTORS® to increase its commitment to strengthening and solidifying fair housing protections in communities across the country. In the immediate aftermath of a New York Newsday investigative report alleging racial discrimination in Long Island’s housing market, NAR:
- Emphasized its support for Fair Housing Testing. NAR issued a statement underscoring the need for paired-testing audits to ensure our industry is held to the highest standard.
- Supported increases for fair housing activities in the FY2020 federal budget. In early December, NAR publicly called on the chairmen of the Congressional Appropriations Committees to provide more funding for fair housing activities across all federal, state and local government entities, along with their private, non-profit partners.
In 2020, NAR will work to heighten our members’ understanding of their obligations under fair housing laws while continuing to push for greater accountability throughout the real estate industry when those laws are violated. The Newsday report was a reaffirmation that NAR must maintain its leadership role in order to ensure the nation achieves the goals established when the Fair Housing Act was signed into law over a half-century ago.
When President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law in 1968, he said, “We have come some of the way, not near all of it. There is much yet to do.” NAR has done much to advance fair housing the last several decades. Much more is yet to come.
Bryan Greene is NAR’s director of Fair Housing Policy. For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.