The 2020 NAR Leadership Team with HUD Secretary Ben Carson
Yesterday, we, along with other members of NAR’s Leadership Team, met with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, HUD’s Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing Anna Maria Farias, HUD General Counsel Paul Compton, and FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery and other senior officials to discuss fair housing just hours after unanimously passing a new plan to tackle the issue.
The meeting allowed us to reiterate our commitment to partnering with HUD to advance fair housing protections, and we agreed to work jointly on public service announcements and other proactive initiatives to communicate the importance of housing access for all Americans.
We have been active in our pursuit of innovative new policies and partnerships that will help us preserve the fundamental right of housing in America. While we have long been a champion of the Fair Housing Act, recent incidents have underscored the progress our nation must still make. That’s why we are proud to announce that the Leadership Team has unanimously voted today to approve an action that will directly ramp up and reinvigorate NAR’s fair housing commitment, which we encourage you to read.
NAR leads meeting with HUD officials to discuss Fair Housing Action Plan
The new NAR initiative, abbreviated ‘ACT,’ will emphasize Accountability, Culture Change and Training in order to ensure REALTORS® are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America. Specifically, we will take new actions to ensure members uphold the fair housing standards incorporated in NAR’s Code of Ethics; begin integrating fair housing into all conferences and engagements; and form partnerships with fair housing advocates to pursue shared goals around accountability and training, among countless other initiatives.
Our Code of Ethics and its adherence to fair housing are the cornerstones of our commitment as REALTORS®. With this new plan, we will see more robust education focusing on core fair housing criteria, unconscious bias, and how the actions of our members impact communities. A partnership with government officials and fair housing advocates will allow us to further promote equality as we continue to work to diversify our industry.
Leadership from the National Association of Realtors® met with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and other senior Department officials on Wednesday in Washington to discuss fair housing issues just hours after unanimously passing a new plan to tackle the issue.
April is Fair Housing Month. As stewards of the right to own, use, and transfer private property, REALTORS® understand that fair housing protects the real estate industry and our businesses. We depend on a free, open market that embraces equal opportunity. In short, fair housing makes us stronger. This year, we will commemorate this important and historic milestone by highlighting four key issue areas that will set the tone for the future of fair housing.
On March 13, 2019, Rep. David Cicillini (D-PA) introduced HR 5, the Equality Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Equality Act would amend the Fair Housing Act to provide protections for LGBTQ people in key areas of life, such as housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and voting rights, and is aligned to NAR’s Code of Ethics. As we monitor this bill through the legislative process, we will continue to express our support. If the bill passes, we will work to address our policy issues as any regulations implementing it are developed.
We’ll also continue to work with and support our multicultural partners — the National Association for Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) — to address immigration housing rights, improving language access to financial materials, and gaps in African-American homeownership.
Don’t forget there are only four days until Tax Day! This is the first filing season that the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will be seen as you are preparing your tax returns. If you still haven’t filed, we encourage you to review What REALTORS® Need to Know About the New Tax Law. There you’ll find helpful videos and other resources available to you. And as always, consult a tax professional if you have more detailed questions.
During Sara Walsh’s term as president of Columbus REALTORS® President, she knew she wanted to focus on Fair Housing. With the support of a REALTOR® Party Diversity Grant, not only did the 8,000-member association facilitate two successful diversity awareness programs, it strengthened relationships with local minority real estate professional boards, and established a standing Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
Though Columbus is a dynamic and growing city with a robust economy and admirable diversity, says Columbus REALTORS® Director of Development Ida Seitter, regrettably, it also remains largely segregated by race. With this in mind, the REALTORS®’ Fair Housing Task Force determined that its goal would be to educate members and industry colleagues about ongoing cultural bias and discrimination in the housing market. For months, it worked with the local chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (the Columbus Realtists) and the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) on two separate events held last fall: a Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) workshop; and an original dramatic program that it called “Thirst for Equality,” based on a real legal case involving water discrimination. Both projects are expected to grow and have an impact beyond the initial anniversary-year events.
Fair Housing Task Force member Buzz Thomas spearheaded the group’s hosting of the Cost of Poverty Experience, a program offering participants an interactive glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in the local community. For this pilot program, the REALTORS® and their Realtist and NAGLREP colleagues invited core leadership, committee chairs, and local area realty presidents, about 60 in all, to participate in the simulation. “The goal of COPE is to immerse attendees in the lives of those facing poverty and housing insecurity, giving them a peek into these daily challenges, and overcoming biases they might not realize they have,” says Walsh, adding, “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and we believe that attendees walked away with tools they can use in their business and personal lives.”
The cost of the program was offset by a REALTOR® Party Diversity Grant, which also covered the fee for Thomas to become a trained facilitator, an asset that Seitter points out will significantly lower expenses as the Task Force works to develop the curriculum to focus more specifically on real estate issues, and offer its own COPE program to the general memberships in the future.
“Thirst for Equality,” the dramatization of a legal case, was inspired by a mock trial Rubye Wright, a Fair Housing Task Force member and treasurer of the Columbus Realtists, had attended elsewhere in the state. Researching comparable cases that could be brought to life for the community, the Task Force was uncomfortably surprised to find a local case, Kennedy vs. the City of Zanseville (OH), which had only been settled in 2008. Re-enactors included an Ohio Civil Rights Commission Director; the Franklin County Auditor; and a former Ohio Supreme Court Justice serving as the presiding judge. NAREB, NAGLREP, and Columbus REALTORS® played the part of witnesses and legal defense team. The REALTORS® hired a writer to prepare an engaging script of the trial, telling the story of an African-American community suing for access to public water. “It was a powerful drama, all the more so for being true, and local, and from the not-too-distant past,” says co-host, Columbus Realtist President, Sheree Smoot-Johnson, who points out that a video has been made available for those unable to attend the actual event (see below). To expand the program to the three hours required for Continuing Education credit, a discussion panel took place after the dramatization.
“Our ongoing priority is to provide members with the most innovative tools available to best prepare them to be positive ambassadors in the community,” says Seitter. “This includes programs that encourage members to thin outside the box and view housing holistically; healthy neighborhoods equal higher home values. Ultimately, programs like these help participants recognize and overcome cultural and economic bias, breaking habits we may not even realize exist. By being conscious of biases, Columbus REALTORS® are better positioned to serve their clients and the entire community. We’re especially proud of the bond we’ve formed this year with our colleagues at the Columbus Realtists and NAGLREP, working toward common goals.”
To learn more about how the Columbus REALTORS® are honoring the spirit of the Fair Housing Act well beyond its 50th anniversary, contact Director of Development Ida Seitter at 614-528-1104.
In St. Louis, Missouri, REALTORS® have a profound reminder of past prejudicial real estate practices in the Shelley House, the property at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case of Shelley vs. Kraemer, which gave way to the Fair Housing Act 20 years later. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of that breakthrough legislation, St. Louis REALTORS® engaged into local projects benefiting underserved communities with grants from the REALTOR® Party and Missouri REALTORS®.
“Origins of the Fair Housing Act can be traced back here in St. Louis,” notes Dawn Seabaugh, Director of Communications of the 8,000-member St. Louis REALTORS®, “and it’s crucial to note how it’s helped in strengthening our local communities. Our REALTORS® firmly believe in equal housing opportunity for all,’ Seabaugh said. “This year we aligned our annual community betterment projects in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Shelley vs. Kramer case and 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act,” she added. St. Louis REALTORS® sponsored ‘Rebuild Day’ in May, in which REALTORS® helped restore five homes in the community around the Shelley House; and September’s community park project, where members worked for two days to transform a vacant lot into a lush, attractive landscape complete with urban gardens, flower boxes and handicap accessible walk ways.
St. Louis REALTORS® secured permission from the adjacent church that owns the roughly 4,000-square-foot property, and partnered with Rebuilding Together STL, a local non-profit that serves low-income homeowners. St. Louis REALTORS® Foundation, the charitable arm of the association, contributed $25,000 in funding for the project, a collaboration of member donations, a contribution from the association, and a $5,000 grant from Missouri REALTORS®, as well as a $3,000 REALTOR® Party Placemaking Grant. “We’re so fortunate to have the help of our members, NAR, Missouri REALTORS® and Rebuilding Together STL. It takes a great team to accomplish something as great as this park.” says Seabaugh.
The lot is close to an apartment complex for elderly residents and is connected by an alleyway to an existing urban vegetable garden that serves many needs in the area. Prior to the volunteer event, professionals leveled the ground and installed wheelchair-friendly walkways. Over the course of the two-day project, more than 50 REALTORS® and community members came together to assemble umbrellas, build a privacy fence, construct two-level accessible vegetable planters, build picnic tables and benches, and plant trees.
“We are so proud to have been able to help a struggling area of the city,” says Seabaugh. “This park enhances the vitality and attractiveness of the neighborhood, and lifts the spirits and property values for all homeowners and businesses nearby.” She notes that the effort has strengthened the REALTORS®’ relationship with the community and the city, as well: the October 26th ribbon-cutting was attended by the city alderman, the state senator, and the U.S. congressman representing the area. “We are deeply thankful to NAR for its support,” she says. “These grant programs are fabulous and are put to very good use on the local level.”
To learn more about how St. Louis REALTORS® is working to uplift communities around the city, contact Dawn Seabaugh, Director of Communications, at 314-576-0033.
In the heart of state- and county-fair season, an event that put real ‘fun’ in fundraising took place in downtown Dallas, Texas: five diversity organizations across the state’s real estate industry joined together to host “Fair Play for TREPAC,” raising a net total of more than $6,600 in an evening of fair-themed retro-pleasures.
Taylor Walcik, who serves on the Board of Directors of both his local MetroTEX Association and the Texas Association of REALTORS®, as well as TAR’s Professional Standards Committee, spearheaded the fun-filled August 15th event. The concept occurred to him, he explains, in brainstorming ways to honor this year’s 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. “I thought it would be super-cool to get all the local diversity groups together, and recognize this important legislation with a “Fair” theme,” he notes. “What’s more fun than a fair?” Judging from the success of the evening, it’s fair to say he was right.
The hosts he pulled together included local chapters of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AAREA), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the Women’s Council of REALTORS®(WCR), and the Gay and Lesbian Organization of Real Estate (GALORE). It was the first time these groups had been united for a common cause, but Walcik says it won’t be the last: “There’s lots of value in collaborating; we’re all facing different challenges, and sometimes the same challenges, and it makes sense to work together to find solutions by crossing lines. It turns out we work really well together.”
The planning committee timed the event to give REALTORS® one last opportunity to meet their next TREPAC investment level, and many of them rose to the challenge, says Walcik. Admittance was by $85 ticket, which included food and two drinks, and the venue they secured set the tone for the fun-and-games event: Cidercade, a hard cider tasting room crossed with a huge collection of arcade games. Additional TREPAC funds were raised by extra fair-themed activities like Skee Ball, and Hot Shot and NFL Quarterback Toss tournament brackets. Two especially big money-makers were the Dunking Booth, with TREPAC Trustees and local Executive Committee members in the dunk seat; and a Pie Face Rally that generated heated competition for a chance to hit various chapter presidents and directors with an extra-creamy pie: “Anything for TREPAC!” laughs Walcik, as one of the four targets.
TREPAC sponsored the event together with a number of other affiliates and brokerages whose underwriting covered the entire cost of Fair Play for TREPAC, including the food and drink. The impressive spread was catered by a local celebrity chef, who improved on traditional Texas State Fair food with his own elevated versions of fried chicken strips, fried pickles, corn dogs, and stuffed jalapeños. “Good as it was, there was still lots left over, and we donated it to a local homeless shelter,” notes Walcik.
Another special thing about Fair Play for TREPAC, he adds, is that since the 75 event participants were members of different local REALTOR® associations, rather than from a single local board, each investment in TREPAC was credited to the investor’s primary board affiliation. “We had past and current presidents of local REALTOR® associations, TREPAC Trustees, the Chair of TREPAC, diversity organization presidents and directors as well as TAR and NAR directors in attendance. I think that even the dunk-ees and pie-targets would agree it was an amazingly fun night, and we’d absolutely do it again!”
To learn more about how REALTORS® highlighting the diversity of Texas have come together to support TREPAC, contact Taylor Walcik at or 214-901-3736.
Fair Play for TREPAC planning committee: L-R clockwise: Omeshi Owens Roberts (WCR), Chelsea Clayson (WCR & GALORE), Taylor Walcik (GALORE), Clint Gilliam (GALORE), J Rashad Thomas (NAREB), Jed Anantasomboon (AREAA), and Leticia Ramos (NAHREP)
REALTORS® and Federal Political Coordinators Ron Mazier, Sharon Middlebrooks, Erin Brown, and Chandra Patterson join NAR staff for the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Conference
The Urban Institute's Alanna McCargo speaks to the crowd at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference
Panelist at NAREB's State of Black Housing in America session the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference
NAREB President Jeffrey Hicks introduces a panel discussion featuring keynote speaker Richard Rosthstein
REALTOR® and Federal Political Coordinator Nykea Pippion McGriff and NAR staffer Victoria Givens attending NAREB's State of Black Housing Event during CBCF's ALC
The Honorable Gregory Meeks, U.S. Representative (NY-5) addresses the crowd at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference
The 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, declining stats in African-American homeownership, gentrification, and creative solutions were top of mind for many of the 10,000 people attending the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) in Washington, D.C., including REALTORS® and NAR Advocacy staff.
For years, NAR’s Federal Political Coordinators have used ALC as an opportunity to network with their member of Congress, industry professionals, and other small business owners. These REALTORS® are the voice and the face of real estate to our federal lawmakers, and play a pivotal role in REALTOR® Party outreach. They work closely with members of Congress and the Congressional Black Caucus, along with our D.C.-based lobbyists and regulatory staff to advance mutual goals for the African-American community, while informing policy and educating the public. In past years, NAR are has also joined hundreds of other organizations and businesses to sponsor conference activities and events.
“This year, as we recognize the 50th anniversary the Fair Housing Act, the National Association of REALTORS® remains committed to working with groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to advance policies that remove barriers to African-American homeownership in the United States. That includes a collaborative partnership, from both the private and public sectors, to ensure the Fair Housing Act is serving its core purpose as intended by Congress,” National Association of REALTORS® President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation REALTOR® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty, said.
“Not only is Fair Housing integral to the ethical commitment of our members, as outlined in the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, it is critical to our ability to serve our customers, clients and the community. REALTORS® look forward to continuing to work to ensure affordable and sustainable housing opportunities are available for Americans in every corner of this country,” Mendenhall continued.
The impact of civil and social movements over the last 50 years has played a major role in changing the trajectory of American history. This year’s ALC theme, “The Dream Still Demands,” focused on the influence and legacy of these moments, while uplifting present-day champions in the fight for racial equality, justice, and freedom in all arenas, including housing.
REALTOR® Mark Alston, Chairman of the NAREB’s Public Affairs Committee
James H. Carr, Endowed Chair and Professor at Wayne State University
Maurice Jourdan-Earl, Managing Director and Co-Founder, ComplianceTech
Alanna McCargo, Vice President of Housing Finance Policy, Urban Institute
Lisa Rice, President and CEO, National Fair Housing Alliance
Just two years after the Fair Housing Act was passed, African-American homeownership rate was 41.6%. Today, African-American homeownership rate is still 41.6%, the lowest rate among all other racial groups. NAR is committed to working with NAREB, the Urban Institute, and other partners to address barriers to homeownership in the policy arena.
About 56.7 million people or nearly 1 in 5 Americans report having a disability. Claims of disability discrimination make up nearly 55 percent of all fair housing complaints filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This White Paper covers the federal, state, and local laws that protect persons with disabilities. Further, there is a discussion regarding the denial of a request for accommodations in housing. There have been several states adopting legislation to prevent abuse of the right to request an accommodation.
Fair housing is more than just anti-discrimination. It is critical that our society provide opportunities for all people to achieve wellbeing and reach their potential. Differences in access to health care, healthy food, and a clean environment have provided barriers that have disproportionately affected people of color and the poor. In this issue of On Common Ground, we discuss the multiple components that we need to address to achieve social equity — providing the opportunities and pathways to success so that all Americans can prosper.