Posted on February 5, 2021

Racism in Real Estate? Major Realtors’ Association Confronts the Issue

Lew Sichelman, Miami Herald, February 1, 2021

In an unusual, if not unprecedented, move for a major trade organization, the National Association of Realtors has taken full ownership for any and all discriminatory actions taken over the years by the 1.4 million agents and brokers for which it speaks.

Of course, realty pros aren’t the only ones who have been complicit in directing people of color away from white neighborhoods, pushing them into more expensive financing or denying them access to homeownership altogether. Lenders and appraisers have been part of the problem, too — and so have some owners, who refuse to sell to African Americans.

But on the day after he was installed as the 2021 president of NAR — the nation’s largest trade association — Charlie Oppler apologized on behalf of the business for past policies that contributed to segregation and racial inequality in America. In 1968, the group opposed passage of the Fair Housing Act. And at one time, it excluded some members of the profession based on both race and sex.

The discrimination was all part of what NAR now says was a “systematic policy” of residential racial segregation led by the federal government and supported by the banking system and other segments of the real estate business. But two recent events, in particular, underscored the need for the association to take the racial inequity bull by the horns.

One was a three-year investigation by New York publication Newsday, which found widespread separate and unequal treatment of minorities by nearly 100 Long Island agents. Published in late 2019, the study covered some 5,750 listings and found that Asians were discriminated against 19% of the time; Hispanics, 39% of the time; and African Americans, 49%.


On the discrimination issue, meanwhile, Oppler said that his organization intends to “look the problem squarely in the eye” and assume a leadership role in fighting for fair housing going forward. In that regard, it has adopted an initiative it calls ACT: Accountability, Cultural Change and Training.

Among other things, NAR’s Fair Housing Action plan, which was approved a year ago, has created an interactive software program that should help agents identify and confront discriminatory situations. In another step, NAR has amended its code of ethics to make it a violation to use harassing or hate speech toward any protected class: race, color, religion, sex, handicap, family status, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity.

But while the simulation program has been received well, the code addition is getting pushback: Some members say it goes too far because it bans such speech anywhere, at any time. That, they say, impinges on their right to free speech.


Meanwhile, four appraisal organizations have come together to tackle “unconscious” behavior in valuing properties. {snip}