The educational programming offered by the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® is especially robust this year, from a monthly virtual ‘Pathways to Homeownership’ Brown Bag Lunch series conducted in partnership with the City of Birmingham, to a round of summits addressing issues like economics and global real estate. In mid-April, as local pandemic restrictions were being eased, the 4,723-member association was delighted to present a Fair Housing Summit at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens – in-person at last, but also streamed on-line by nearly 600 viewers. A Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it a memorable affair.
“We were so glad that we were able to do a bigger, more special event for Fair Housing Month,” says BAR 2021 President Kelli Gunnells, noting that supporting access to housing is about the most important thing that REALTORS® can do. “A home is so much more than shelter. Living in a home gives families and individuals stability, security and confidence that supports all other aspects of their lives. The grounding that it provides is huge.” She makes the poignant observation that, “We understand that our community has a history of difficulties with regard to homeownership. Mindful of that, our members and our leadership are especially committed to helping all people achieve the dream of homeownership, regardless of color or size of pocketbook.”
Amanda Creel, BAR’s Chief Executive Officer, reports that the Fair Housing panel covered many crucial topics and represented many important perspectives. Among the experts were a member of the Birmingham City Council, HUD’s Southeast Regional Administrator, NAR’s Senior Policy Representative for Fair Housing, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers’ Regional Vice President, and the President of the Birmingham Chapter of the Asian Real Estate Association, as well as a member of BAR’s Board of Directors, the Chair of BAR’s Diversity Committee, and Gunnells, herself. The event was moderated by a former Jefferson County Commissioner. “It was such a well-rounded panel, and showcased the diversity in our city today,” says Creel, adding, “Both the in-person and Facebook Live audiences were very engaged and asked great questions. After the two-hour presentation, those present continued the conversations ‘til late in the evening!” They also enjoyed food-truck refreshments, music, and fellowship in the open air of the Botanical Gardens, a truly festive treat after so many months of restrictions.
According to Connor Kendrick, BAR’s Governmental Affairs Coordinator, the application process for the Fair Housing Grant was very user-friendly, and the response-time was quick: “We couldn’t have hosted the event at this scale without this support from the REALTOR® Party. It really helped us achieve our goals, and made for a very memorable program for our guests and online viewers.”
The event has also served to strengthen the association’s relationship with the City of Birmingham and the regional chapters of the minority-focused real-estate professional organizations. Information from the summit will be highlighted on LiveInAlabama.com, BAR’s consumer-facing property server site, extending the value of the event even further. Looking ahead on the Fair Housing front, Gunnells is hoping to engage the BAR membership in NAR’s interactive Fairhaven project, and notes that the board is taking the national ‘Challenge with Charlie’ to heart.
BAR’s Fair Housing efforts go hand-in-hand with Home Ownership Initiative it recently launched in partnership with the Birmingham Urban League, Jefferson County, and the City of Bessemer. By providing significant resources and education to help participants restore their credit and otherwise get their ‘ducks in a row,’ the program puts the dream of homeownership within reach for many of the region’s low-to-moderate-income families.
To learn more about how the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® is raising awareness of Fair Housing issues and helping neighbors on the path to homeownership, contact Chief Executive Officer Amanda Creel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205.802.6071; or Governmental Affairs Coordinator Connor Kendrick at email@example.com.