In 2019, the attention of the nation’s real estate industry was riveted by Newsday’s ‘Long Island Divided’ exposé, which revealed widespread infractions of fair housing law and propelled the Long Island Board of REALTORS® (LIBOR) into a mode of vigorous educational programming for its 30,000 members. The scandal, together with the ensuing pandemic, effectively overshadowed New York’s other big fair-housing news of 2019: the state’s passage of Source of Income (SOI) as a protected class. LIBOR anticipated the need for an ambitious education effort and was in the process of developing a major public information campaign about the SOI protection, when a NYC-based non-profit brought hundreds of lawsuits against real estate agents who had discriminated against potential renters seeking to use housing vouchers. A Mega-Board Fair Housing grant from the REALTOR® Party boosted the campaign from planning stage to reality.
LIBOR worked with a seasoned communications and advocacy firm to launch “Home for All of Us: Committed to Delivering Fair Housing Across Long Island,” a colorfully branded campaign reaching out to brokers, sales agents, landlords, property management companies, real estate attorneys, lawmakers, and the public. Its centerpiece is a dedicated website with comprehensive information, answers to the tough questions surrounding Source of Income (SOI), and downloadable resources for agents and landlords to display and distribute.
As LIBOR CEO Tessa Hultz explains, “At any real estate transaction, who’s the one party showing up who doesn’t have to be licensed or certified or have taken any classes, but, has the same legal obligation to be fair? The public! Heretofore, regarding Source of Income fair treatment, ignorance was bliss. And it usually falls to the agents to educate the public, and we wanted to facilitate that conversation about the public’s requirements and consequences. This campaign is about spreading the information far and wide, because fair housing is everyone’s business.”
Marlo Paventi, LIBOR’s Senior Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs, notes that, “The whole vibe of the campaign came from aiming beyond just fairness in housing to a sense of welcoming home for everyone.” We wanted to make the tone, and the attitude, one of positive inclusion, not legality and resignation.”
The association mailed the roughly 3,000 brokers in its jurisdiction a package of co-brandable materials spelling out sellers’ and landlords’ obligations under New York Fair Housing Law. It also enclosed a glossy poster to display in brokerage offices that states, “This Office is Committed to Fair Housing for Everyone” with the tagline “Home For All of Us” professionally translated in the region’s ten most predominant languages. “This mirrors the work New York has done in making its government forms available in our communities’ most-used languages. In posting this,” says Hultz, our members are not only asserting a commitment to fair housing for all, but also to the inclusivity of Long Island’s many cultures.” Paventi reports that, “The broker response has been outstanding. We are hearing from offices that have made it a matter of policy to include the flyers in to all their buyer and renter packets. It sets the tone of the way the office treats its clients: with fairness.”
LIBOR’s hope is that others will co-brand or replicate their campaign materials for their own memberships and markets. Last November, the association bought advertising at NAR NXT Orlando, and created QR codes so that convention attendees could “Stop Scan Share” the Home for All of Us information. Beyond the tremendous foot traffic in the exhibition hall, Hultz personally connected with AEs of many large local and state associations, through whom she expects upwards thousands more REALTORS® to be exposed to the campaign materials. “We’ve created these tools to further fair housing, not just on Long Island, but wherever our colleagues are!
To learn more about how the Long Island Board of REALTORS® is getting out in front of housing discrimination, contact Marlo Paventi, Senior Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs, at MPaventi@LIRealtor.com or 631.661.4800 x 306; or CEO Tessa Hultz, at THultz@lirealtor.com. To access the materials they’ve developed and are making available to real estate professionals everywhere, visit https://www.homeforallofus.org/resources/.