On a beautiful fall day in Asheville, North Carolina last year, the Land of the Sky Association of REALTORS® (LOTSAR) was especially glad to be back at the Blue Ridge Pride festival after a long pandemic hiatus. The difference? Their presence at the 2022 event was supported by a Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party, enabling them to boost their outreach to the next level. As thousands of festival-goers milled around, many were attracted to the booth filled with colorful treats, swag, and fair housing information – a space the REALTORS® shared with a local non-profit that helps at-risk LGBTQ youth find shelter.
“We had participated in the Blue Ridge Pride festival before,” notes Matt Allen, LOTSAR’s Director of Professional Development and Government Affairs, “but the support from the REALTOR® Party really helped us to attract more foot traffic, and engage more visitors in learning about fair housing and what REALTORS® do to make sure there is no discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in rental or purchasing situations.” LOTSAR is proud that Article 10 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics was ahead of the curve in including gender identity and sexual orientation among its protected classes; Allen notes that “the North Carolina Fair Housing Act has yet to adopt these distinctions.”
Simone Bernhard, a REALTOR® in Asheville and the Chair of LOTSAR’s Community Relations Committee, reports that twenty REALTOR® volunteers stepped up to staff the booth throughout the day, handing out a version of NAR’s Fair Housing brochure that had been colorfully re-designed for the occasion, and bookmarks bearing Article 10 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. “Our booth featured a wheel that visitors could spin for a prize: mugs, magnets, and t-shirts we had designed by a local artist, and cookies iced with rainbows and whoopie pies provided by a local LGBTQ-owned bakery. We were happy to promote their businesses, and their goods made it fun for everyone. Everything flew off the shelves!”
LOTSAR was especially pleased to partner with Youth OUTright, a local non-profit that assists at-risk teens, many of whom are no longer welcome at home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “It’s a partnership that makes sense for us, because of the housing focus of their mission,” notes Allen. The REALTORS® helped Youth OUTright with marketing materials and provided a platform in their booth from which to share their message with festival-goers; a dedicated jar on the REALTORS®’ table collected nearly $200 for the non-profit.
“We’re very grateful for the Fair Housing Grant, which gave us the ability to reach more folks,” says Allen. Raising awareness of fair housing issues helps the community, and it also shows the community that REALTORS® stand behind fair housing for all.” During Fair Housing Month 2023, LOTSAR looks forward to presenting a Fair Housing Marketing Compliance seminar for those in the rental housing space, including members, local housing non-profits, and elected officials.
To learn more about how the Land of the Sky Association of REALTORS® is demonstrating its commitment to fair housing, contact Matthew Allen, Director of Professional Development and Government Affairs, at email@example.com or 828.333.5840; or Simone Bernhard, Chair of LOTSAR’s Community Relations Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.239.2903.
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