The Greater Syracuse Association of REALTORS® has never shied away from tough topics. True to form, shortly after the National Association launched its interactive Fairhaven program to heighten REALTOR® awareness of racial bias within the industry, the 1,780-member organization in Central New York began planning its own double-feature that would introduce the educational simulation to its members — and present Bill Dedman, the lead investigator on the Newsday “Testing the Divide” exposé, as a guest speaker. A Fair Housing Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it possible.
“Our members are the industry’s foot soldiers,” states Lynnore Fetyko, the association’s longtime CEO. “More than ever this past year, once the pandemic had imposed certain limits on their activities, we’ve wanted to bring them as much high-level education as possible, and given the events that brought the issue of race to the forefront nationwide last summer, the subject of racial bias was already high on our minds.” In August, the association had offered members a free course called ‘Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity,’ which they recorded and sent out to the membership several times. In the fall, the staff previewed the Newsday investigation video sent out by NAR, and made the decision to share it with members. Distasteful as it was, says Fetyko, “We didn’t want to hide it. It was an important wake up call, as people often don’t realize they’re being biased. It depends on how and where you were raised, and your personal experience. No matter what that may have been, we all have to pay attention to how we’re showing up and addressing ourselves to every situation.”
The two-hour program funded in part by the grant was one of the four annual ‘Raising the Bar’ seminars the association offers its members, in keeping with its ongoing education mission. Operations Manager Katie DeAnthony explains that if members attend all four programs, or three programs plus the annual Community Day, they receive a 20% discount on their local dues the following year. “We’re paying them to learn!” notes Fetyko. The more than 200 members who attended this event were treated to an insightful presentation by Dedman, followed by an engaging demonstration of the Fairhaven simulation by NAR senior policy representative, Fair Housing Policy, Alexia Smokler; both took questions afterwards from participants.
In advance of the event, Smokler and Fetyko had drummed-up excitement by recording a ‘GNN’ session (Greater Syracuse Association of REALTORS® News Network’) as a teaser, and the program was heavily promoted in the association newsletter. Fetyko reports that she received multiple appreciative texts from her leadership during and after the event, registering appreciation of how positive and important it was. “In many cases,” she says, “as agents engage in the Fairhaven simulation, they will be receiving reassurance that they are, in fact, handling their interactions properly, and that is a valuable exercise, too.”
The commitment to Fair Housing doesn’t end there for the Greater Syracuse Association of REALTORS®: for Fair Housing Month, the association is encouraging members to go through the whole Fairhaven simulation independently, and is sponsoring a contest to sweeten the deal; later this fall, it plans to offer the REALTOR® Party’s ‘At Home with Diversity’ course. As a cheerful year-round reminder of the REALTORS®’ commitment to Fair Housing, part of the Fair Housing Grant was used to print posters highlighting best practices and legally required notices, available free of charge for members to hang in their offices.
To watch a recording of the Fair Housing event supported by the grant, visit https://youtu.be/2wE-RNB3tO0. To learn more about how the Greater Syracuse Association of REALTORS® is combatting discrimination in the industry through awareness training and education, contact CEO Lynnore Fetyko at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315.457.5979 ext. 228; or Operations Manager Katie DeAnthony at email@example.com or 315.457.5979 ext. 225.