Associations Around the Country Tap into Training that Helps Members Recognize and Correct a Significant Obstacle to Fair Housing: Implicit Bias

Associations Around the Country Tap into Training that Helps Members Recognize and Correct a Significant Obstacle to Fair Housing: Implicit Bias

April 2023

Overcoming implicit bias is an important step towards achieving the goal of fair housing for all, and it starts with recognition.  Last year, to give REALTORS® a running start, NAR launched a new certificate course: ‘Bias Override/Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing.’  Several local associations used Fair Housing Grants from the REALTOR® Party to offer members the training, which aims to interrupt the stereotypical thinking that prevents real estate professionals from providing equal service to all clients.  From coast to coast – and even offshore – the three-hour course brought a new level of awareness to participating REALTORS®, along with enhanced understanding, communication, and business skills.

In western Oregon, the 100-member Polk County Board of REALTORS® wanted to establish a baseline of understanding of fair housing issues among its members and help them to improve their skills regarding fair housing law.  Tapping into the REALTOR® Party grant programs for the first time, they brought in an instructor to teach the Bias Override course.  “It was super-informative,” says AE Jana Fogg.  “Learning the history of the real estate industry and the difficulties that various minority groups have faced – including women – will help us work together for a better community and housing environment for all.  The instructor’s intent was not to shame or guilt us, but to nurture a ‘let’s do better’ attitude that we can all get behind.”   Fogg notes that while Polk County may not be as racially diverse as a large metropolis, understanding its diversity, and respecting it, is important.  “A couple of our members who are Hispanic shared stories about experiencing racism growing up,” she says.  “It was difficult to hear; but the wonderful thing is that they are very excited to be in the real estate business, because they now serve as a resource for others who may be more comfortable speaking Spanish, and are helping these clients find their place in the community.  We all benefitted from hearing this and felt a definite bond from having shared that in the class.  It opened our minds and our hearts, and we plan to continue to grow our knowledge and awareness.”

In the Caribbean territory of St. Croix, the Bias Override course reached a whopping 93% of the St. Croix Board of REALTORS®’ membership, thanks to the video technology that now connects agents on all three islands, as well as the many who are not year-round residents.  Immediate Past-President Dan Savaro reports it was an eye-opening education, with plenty of introspection and heated discussion.  “One of the hotter topics was steering,” he notes, explaining that St. Croix’s hilly coastal terrain and high percentage of investor-owners means that every ridge-line and hillside is a different neighborhood, with its own character.  “Going into the course, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the concept of overcoming implicit bias, but once it was in progress there was definitely a sense of, ‘Holy-moly!  I’ve been mis-handling this, or that, in my professional life!’  The reminder that we are obligated to show all available properties within a price-point clearly hit home.”  Likewise, he says, when certain brokerages are only visible in certain areas, that reflects badly on the brokerage.  “The training supports our branding as fair and unbiased agents who are willing to work with clients of all backgrounds.”

At the board level, says Savaro, the REALTORS® work hard to make sure that members receive fair-housing messaging on a regular basis, through courses like this one, and an annual Fair Housing Expo, together with periodic reminders and suggestions; they encourage the islands’ individual brokerages to uphold fair housing as a top priority.

To learn more about how local REALTOR® associations are helping their members to recognize and overcome implicit bias that stands in the way of fair housing – and other human interactions – contact: Dan Savaro of the St. Croix Board of REALTORS® at or 340.474.5384; or Jana Fogg, AE of the Polk County (OR) Board of REALTORS® at or 503.930.1047.

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