Sometimes, it pays to send your message on the road. When the Greater Portland Board of REALTORS® (GPBR), which serves the largest metropolitan area in the state of Maine, wanted to get its Fair Housing values in front of the community, it wrapped that message around a bus traveling the prominent South Portland route. The colorful, over-sized, mobile campaign ran for three months, catching the public’s attention and positioning the local REALTORS® as leaders in matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It was made possible by a Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party.
GPBR’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee leadership met with REALTOR® Party staff early in 2022. As Andrea Page, the 2022 GPBR President, recalls, “We were so excited to learn about all the grants available, and immediately set out to find our project!” She credits Rebecca Donatelli, 2022 President of the Lake and Geaugua (OH) Area Association of REALTORS®, with the bus-wrapping idea: Donatelli had posted a similar project on NAR’s HUB platform, where Page saw it – and was inspired. “It was amazing!” she says. “Here was exactly the bold and large-scale way we wanted to tell people about the significance of the Fair Housing Act, and share our association’s commitment to upholding Fair Housing law and offering equal professional service to all. I connected with Rebecca, and she very graciously shared her board’s experience.”
Initially working with the City of Portland’s Transportation Authority, the REALTORS® encountered various design and editorial challenges, so, after months of effort, they turned their sights to South Portland. A three-month contract allowed them to wrap a bus on the high-traffic route between the two cities, along with a companion curbside advertisement. The message “Fair Housing for All – Contact an Agent Who Is a REALTOR®” was crafted with care, and met the public where they are, in the everyday experience of riding or seeing a local bus go by. GPBR re-enforced the concepts through its website, press releases, and on social media, and with meetings and discussions for its members.
They knew the high-profile effort was making an impact from the unsolicited positive comments and photos that came in from the public. The visibility has paved the way to relationships with other DEI-oriented organizations in the community, building on momentum they’d already begun to establish: not long before the bus-wrapping campaign, GPBR participated in Portland’s annual Pride Parade, where they also turned some heads. Says Page, “The turnout was great, and people who visited our booth commented, ‘I didn’t realize you guys supported us!’ and “I had NO idea REALTORS® cared about this!’ This campaign has been all about assuring the community that we do, in fact, care and we do support DEI values in fair housing.”
Denise Hardy, the DEI Committee’s outgoing chair, concurs, adding, “We know our purpose, and are super excited to be laying the groundwork for the impact we want to make. To help create a statewide culture of inclusion here in Maine, especially in the housing industry, we are encouraging the state board to establish a DEI committee. Locally, we’re thinking of hosting a fair housing symposium, or a public forum to demonstrate how DEI is objectively good for business.” The board is also looking forward to partnering with the Equality Community Center, a mixed-use facility in Portland that serves as a supportive hub for local LBGT+-justice seeking organizations.
“We’re so grateful for the support from NAR that enables us to do these things, because they’re more important than ever,” notes Hardy: “We are close to 8,000 housing units short in Maine, and we have not seen such a high level of encampments – until now. We are determined to turn that around, and a focus on fair housing is the key.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Greater Portland, Maine are working to promote fair housing contact Chair Andrea Page at email@example.com or 207.766.8370; or CEO Kris Dorer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207.775.1097.