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National Fair Housing Month & What You Can Do as a REALTOR® to Stop Housing Discrimination

National Fair Housing Month & What You Can Do as a REALTOR® to Stop Housing Discrimination Fair Housing Month

Every April, REALTORS® commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 with events and education that shine a light on housing discrimination and segregation. Fair Housing Month signifies a recommitment to expanding equal access to housing. The 1968 Act “expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, and family status.”

Since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, many have brought cases of housing discrimination to court and have won those legal battles. Although this reflects some progress, many challenges to fair housing remain, and there are still extreme racial disparities in homeownership and wealth. In 1968, “65% of white families owned their homes, which was 25% higher than the 41% of black families that owned their homes.” Today, the Black homeownership rate has not changed, while white homeownership has increased to 71.1%.

These homeownership disparities contribute to the shocking racial wealth gap in America. In 2017, the typical white family held ten times the amount of wealth as the typical Black family ($171,000 for white families to $17,409 for Black families, on average). These numbers have worsened since 1968 and point to the fact that housing discrimination continues to determine life outcomes. In 2017 more than “28,000 complaints of housing discrimination were filed across the country.” Some of these complaints resulted in lawsuits against cities, banks, and landlords for housing and lending discrimination. While some cases were reported and sanctioned, others went unreported.

In addition to continued racial disparities in homeownership and insufficient reporting of housing discrimination, the changing political landscape has inhibited progress on fair housing, particularly in recent years. While protecting fair housing was once a bipartisan effort, political support for this goal has decreased in recent decades. Under the Trump administration and Secretary Ben Carson’s direction, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development largely “ignored its responsibility to enforce anti-discrimination policies and actively work towards integration.”

To help address some of these challenges, the National Association of Realtors launched Fairhaven, a new fair housing simulation training for REALTORS® that “uses the power of storytelling to help its members identify, prevent, and address discriminatory practices in real estate.” This innovative online experience has real estate agents work confront discrimination in home buying by working to sell homes in the fictional town of Fairhaven. The training “provides customized feedback that learners can apply to daily business interactions and is available to all 1.4 million NAR members at no additional cost.”

But, this is only a small start to address the significant progress required to overcome the current fair housing challenges we face in the U.S. There is much more you can do. Visit NAR to learn more and see what you can do to get involved and help accelerate fair housing efforts.  From using existing resources at no cost to even applying for a grant, you can certainly make a difference. 

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Abby Sullivan