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Opinion: The real estate industry’s legacy in the face of scandal and discrimination

Do you know the real estate industry's brave legacy in the face of scandal and discrimination?

Two things can be true at the same time: NAR leadership has some critical initiatives to stamp out discrimination and is also accused of discrimination.

In light of recent allegations of and by the National Association of Realtors staff, have you seen the reports (including social media posts and comments) of outrage by both fellow Realtors and the public, our neighbors, whom we serve?

There is a growing disenchantment.

In response, I am reminded of a saying I have heard from my soon-to-be 95-year-old grandma, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” She has seen a lot in almost a century of living that affirms the duality of collective progress.

Likewise, this sentiment has been vital for the real estate industry to increase access and opportunity to own real estate for ourselves and our neighbors over the last 100-plus years.

Let’s take a look at just a couple of examples (excerpts from my “How to Be a Fair Housing DECODER©” study guide):

“Greenlined” (1930s): Do you know the key reason why a singular Black community (in Savannah, Georgia) out of hundreds nationwide was given a “green” rating and was not “redlined”? The then all-male, all-white lenders of the area advocated to continue doing business with the community. Fair housing decoders have been around since the beginning.

Realtor Advocacy for Fair Housing (1960s): Although Realtor associations campaigned to obstruct the passage of Fair Housing laws, a small but mighty number of members (remember at this time it was all-white and mostly male) vocally opposed their associations and advocated for fair housing.

Professional collaboration (1940s – now): Most importantly, we see the continued work and advocacy of various special interest groups that were once denied the status of Realtor. These include the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR), the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance (The Alliance), just to name a few.

Again, two things can be true at once. 

In other words, the real estate industry has a brave remnant of professionals who understand the importance of not abandoning the industry and advocating for better. I believe that if you are reading this, that is likely you, too.

It is no secret that in many parts of the country we are dealing with historic unaffordability to the point where some fear they may never become homeowners. Consequently, our advocacy for fair and affordable housing is needed now more than ever. 

As mentioned, history has shown us that the real estate professionals (including salespeople, mortgage lenders, appraisers, etc.) who lean in despite industry scandal and discrimination become changemakers on the brave side of history.

Collectively, we are the largest lobbying industry spender beyond even big pharma because we have literally paid our dues. So, let’s stick around and speak up to make sure fairness among our colleagues and in our communities is the realized, not just theorized, guiding light.

Lee Davenport, PhD, is a real estate coach/trainer and blogger who trains real estate agents and brokerages on how to work smarter with technology.

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