Why the Fight for Fair Housing Matters More Than Ever and How Realtors® Can Help

By MNR News posted 04-05-2023 16:06


Realtors® recognize Fair Housing Month every April to commemorate the passage of the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968—established to prohibit discrimination in housing based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or familial status.  

The Fair Housing Act protects buyers from discrimination as they get a mortgage, rent or buy a home, seek housing assistance, or participate in other housing-related activities. For the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the language of fair housing is embedded in Article 10 of NAR’s Code of Ethics—something Realtors® are committed to uphold.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, also known as the Fair Housing Act, sought to address in part the injustices faced by Black and Hispanic men who had fought in the Vietnam War but upon returning to the states couldn’t purchase or rent homes in certain residential developments due to their race. The law was expanded at the federal level to include the other protected classes of people. This expansion was adopted by many states and localities, including Minnesota.

While progress has been made since 1968, the racial disparity in homeownership remains a critical issue across the country. According to a recent NAR report, the Black to white homeownership gap is wider than it's been in a decade. In Minnesota, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve found that our state has the fifth widest racial homeownership gap in the country. This makes the cause of fair housing more important than ever for Realtors® and brokers to champion in their business practices, from advertising to closing. 

Not only is the need for equity in housing practice lawful, but it's critical to today’s complex market. As the demographics of our country change, Realtors® must adapt to effectively serve a multicultural clientele. Real estate professionals and consumers depend on fair housing laws and practices for our communities and economy to thrive. Discrimination of any type ultimately distorts the housing market and closes the door on the American dream of homeownership for many qualified buyers.  

The Fight for Fair Housing in Real Estate 

Beyond enforcing fair housing practices for members in its Code of Ethics, NAR, along with state and local associations, works to promote public policy that advances broader homeownership availability, accessibility, and affordability to all communities.  

In Minnesota, our MNR Governmental Affairs department supports, testifies, and lobbies for legislation that aligns with and advances fair housing law at the state Capitol. One recent example is the MNR-backed “First-Generation Homebuyers Down Payment Assistance Fund” bill that is moving through the state House and Senate in the 2023 Legislative Session. The bill would provide targeted assistance to first-generation home buyers without access to generational wealth; its primary aim is reducing our racial homeownership gap. 

What Realtors® Can Do 

As a Realtor®, advancing the cause of fair housing means ongoing learning, reflection, and action. Staying current on diversity trends and business practices is one of the top ways to promote fair housing. One good first step is to read more fair housing law as well as the disturbing history of housing discrimination and segregation in America. Check out the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s overview here. When you’re ready to act, NAR, MNR, and your local association all offer a combination of education and training resources. 

  • Get certified in diversity by earning your At Home With Diversity (AHWD) certification. In this course, you’ll learn to help buyers of all cultural backgrounds achieve the dream of homeownership. Learn more here. 

  • Visit NAR’s Fairhaven, a fictional online town where you can put your knowledge of fair housing laws to the test while learning how to incorporate these practices into your business. Visit Fairhaven here. 

  • Take CE classes from MNR related to fair housing and diversity and inclusion practices.  

  • Join an implicit bias workshop and watch NAR’s Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing. 

  • Find other Fair Housing training tools here.