Mark Meek has spent 25 years as a residential real estate broker, and in the last five years he has taken a second job – Oregon state representative, representing an area about 30 miles south of Portland.
Those dual roles merged last year when Meek chaired a state task force, “Addressing Racial Disparities in Home Ownership.” It was Meek’s job, he said, to envision legislative solutions for the fact that just 38% of Black Oregon residents own a home compared to 65% of white Oregonians.
What the lawmaker came up with has ignited a national debate among real estate agents, on the weighty subject of Fair Housing Act violations and the invariably emotional home sale process.
House Bill 2550, which the Oregon legislature passed earlier this month and is before Gov. Kate Brown, contains a single, bolded sentence that would change existing law.
“In order to help a seller avoid selecting a buyer based on buyer’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or familial status as prohibited by the Fair Housing Act,” the sentence in question reads, “A seller’s agent shall reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer.”
What the legislation refers to is, in real estate lingo, a “love letter” from prospective buyer to home seller. Perhaps the love letter got its name because, like other amorous missives, the pictures can mean as much as the words.