HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan made an appearance at the National Association of REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings on Wednesday to laud the work of his agency in promoting housing policies and programs that acknowledge the equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans. The agency makes clear that sexual orientation is no barrier to accessing any HUD programs, he said.
“We have a broad requirement that housing opportunities should be available to all persons regardless of sexual orientation,” said Donovan, who spoke to members gathered for a reception of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP).
But Donovan noted that there is still a long way to go on the civil rights issue that has rapidly been gaining ground in recent months and years. Noting President Obama’s strong support of marriage equality and recent same-sex marriage cases brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, Donovan added, “There is still an urgent need for legal protections based on sexual orientation.” The 45-year Fair Housing Act does not include sexual orientation as a protected class.
NAGLREP Founder and CEO Jeff Berger said he was delighted by Donovan’s appearance at the meeting and his commitment to ending discrimination in housing faced by the LGBT community. The movement clearly has momentum, he said.
Berger cited the group’s drive, working with Wisconsin REALTORS®, to get sexual orientation included as protected classes in the NAR Code of Ethics. That change was approved by NAR’s board of directors at the Midyear Meetings in 2010. Now, an effort is underway to add Code of Ethics protection based on gender orientation. The proposal will be voted on by the NAR Delegate Body at its meeting in November. Berger also hopes to get NAR to include LGBT data in future versions of its Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers and Member Profile. “It will give REALTORS® a truer picture of who is in their markets if lesbians and gays and same-sex couples were acknowledged,” Berger said.
It’s a phone call no association wants to receive. Fair Housing testers say sales associates in the market violated the law by treating households differently based on race and ethnicity.
That’s what happened to the Lehigh Valley Association of REALTORS® in Pennsylvania, but the story doesn’t end there.
Taking the view that even a single allegation of discrimination is one too many, the association worked with community groups to institute a hard-hitting campaign to educate its members about Fair Housing. “We made a decision to be part of the solution,” says Andrea Decker, the association’s president in 2012, when the Fair Housing testing was conducted.
The campaign combines the latest best practices on federal Fair Housing rules from NAR, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other groups, with an outreach program that vests brokers in the education process.
“We decided brokers were the best means to mitigate this issue,” says Justin Porembo, the Lehigh Valley association’s government affairs director. “We asked them to have an educational forum at each of their monthly staff meetings to keep the conversation about Fair Housing going.”
A new task force was created to develop monthly Fair Housing topics that brokers could use in their meetings. The task force also looked at ways to increase minority representation on the association’s board, and it worked with HUD to create a publication directed at consumers to help them understand Fair Housing and how to report activity that they think might violate the law.
The campaign has been in place for about a year now and it’s impact has been significant. “Ultimately, we feel the outcome was positive,” says Ryan Conrad, the association’s CEO. “We’re moving forward.”
In a 6-minute video. Conrad and others walk you through the details of the report by the Fair Housing testers, how the association responded, and what the outcome has been.
Share the video in time for Fair Housing Month, April 1-30.
By Robert Freedman, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
The memorial was designed to be thought-provoking, with its 30-foot high rendering of the slain civil rights leader emerging from a block of solid rock that itself emerges from a rock wall behind it. On the rendering of the rock is the inscription, “Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
It’s easy to forget the struggles of our friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and everyone else who fought to be treated equally under the law, both in its spirit and to its letter. About 20 years ago, one of our NAR members, a broker who’s been selling real estate for some 25 years, faced a home seller who refused to let her show his home because she was a minority. It’s a sad commentary on how things were, but it’s also an uplifting commentary, because once the listing agent heard how his fellow real estate professional had been treated, he immediately cancelled his listing with the seller. One small stone of hope in a mountain of despair.
Today, instances of discrimination are more subtle but still just as real, which is why the Martin Luther King memorial is as much a living reminder of the work that still needs to be done as it is a tribute to the work of Dr. King. Continue reading »
By Robert Freedman, senior editor, REALTOR® Magazine
It’s tempting to show new customers around neighborhoods you’ve selected because they would seem to fit them perfectly. But you do that at your peril. As you’ll see in this short video, stumbling into a situation in which your actions have the effect of steering, a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, isn’t hard to do whenever you try to ingratiate yourself with customers by trying to do their thinking for them.
The key message in the video is that, before you start talking to a customer as a friend would to a friend, sharing your thoughts on what makes a neighborhood a good fit for them, stop yourself. The risk is that, by biasing their opinions about a neighborhood, your words could have the effect of steering.
By Stacey Moncrieff, Editor in Chief, REALTOR® Magazine
Often, we aren’t aware of the people who are positively influencing our life and work. In the past two days, I learned of the death of two such people: Mal Sherman of Baltimore and Thomas J. Graff of Oakland, Calif.
Sherman was a real estate broker, who—in the early 1960s—took the moral high ground and become a vocal supporter of equal housing opportunity. This despite his attorney’s warning that he was committing “business suicide.” The attorney was wrong; Sherman remained a successful broker and was asked to head President John F. Kennedy’s National Committee for Equal Opportunity in Housing. I learned his story thanks to Damian Da Costa, who profiled Sherman for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ centennial book.
By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
Many of today’s REALTORS® might not realize it, but 1968 was a tough year. Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, the Tet Offensive was launched against U.S. forces in Vietnam, and the Soviet Union crushed the Prague Spring liberalization movement in Czechoslovakia.
Yet it was also a year of hope. One bright spot was the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which outlaws discrimination against home buyers on the basis of their background.
Now, more than four decades later, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® will commemorate Fair Housing with a monument located in a park adjacent to its Washington D.C. offices at 500 New Jersey Ave., NW. Continue reading »