In a year fraught with racial tension across the United States, the Houston Association of REALTORS® has made addressing issues of equality and Fair Housing a top priority. Despite the added challenges presented by a global pandemic and markedly severe weather, a hard-working task force convened by HAR Chairman John Nugent is making sure that the association’s 42,000 members have meaningful opportunities for learning, discussion, and collaboration to help them serve their communities responsibly and pro-actively.
“Diversity and inclusion are issues that HAR has cared about for many years,” says Thomas Mouton, chairman of the HAR Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and HAR vice chairman of the board. “Hopefully, out of our efforts to formalize our strong support of these issues, we will be able to effect change in a meaningful way that benefits our members, their clients, and society as a whole.”
Those efforts, explains Rene Galvan, HAR Executive Vice President and staff liaison to the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, are addressing tough issues that may seem distant and theoretical and bringing them to a more local and relatable level for members and affiliates, often through features on HAR’s virtual 30-minute Member Focus Monday program. “Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and our strength is derived from that diversity,” he notes, “and while we want to celebrate that and focus on our shared values, we must also lay the groundwork of making sure we’re not glossing over any inequalities along the way.” He points to the explosive piece of under-cover journalism that revealed widespread racial steering on Long Island last fall. “We became aware of the story in the normal course of monitoring industry news, and several staff members thought that inviting Bill Dedman, one of the lead journalists who uncovered the story, to be a featured speaker at a Member Focus Monday program would make for a compelling event. We know that reaching out and engaging in conversation is how we’re going to raise awareness and understanding of hurtful practices in our industry.”
More than 7,000 HAR members tuned in to Member Focus Monday on Facebook Live to hear Dedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and bestselling author, share insights about his ground-breaking investigation. The Diversity & Inclusion Task Force has also sponsored popular virtual appearances by Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, and Bill Berman of Suffolk University Law School in Boston, an expert on discrimination in the rental market. And in early June, a Member Focus Monday panel entitled ‘Racism in Real Estate’ attracted more than 15,000 views – the highest ever. The speakers, all leaders of local NAREB, AREAA, and NAHREP boards, shared their personal stories as REALTORS® of color, opening eyes to the hurt that can be caused by unfair real estate practices anywhere – including the Houston market.
HAR also brings its commitment to diversity and inclusion out into the community: this fall, its Governmental Affairs department sponsored the creation of a bright and colorful mural by a local artist, powerfully celebrating the diversity of the surrounding neighborhood. This project was made possible by the NAR community outreach grant program.
“Part of our responsibility as REALTORS® is to treat everyone fairly, and the more we can be aware of what that means, the better,” says Galvan. “We are grateful that the REALTOR® Party is such a supportive partner in all of these efforts.”
To learn more about how the Houston Association of REALTORS® is facing issues of diversity and inclusion head-on, contact Executive Vice President Rene Galvan at firstname.lastname@example.org.