Top 3 Fair Housing Concerns to Focus on in 2021
Racial Property Ownership and Wealth Gaps
The Fair Housing Act celebrated 50 years in 2018, but at the end of 2019 the Black and White property ownership gap actually increased. On top of that, the pandemic also exacerbated the wealth gap between the rich and poor, which also disproportionately affected communities of color.
What can be done? Dismantling systematic racism in housing is no easy feat. Redlining policies, in particular, leave heavy, lasting impacts that must be addressed precisely. Policies and legislation will be needed to address the issue, but there is no silver bullet. Targeted down payment assistance programs could be one answer or the expanded use of credit unions for lending may be another. Where does this leave you, the individual real estate professional? Focus on your own community first. Devote time and attention to researching the problems and various proposed solutions. The best thing you can do is be engaged in the issue and sharing information and resources with others.
Implicit Bias and Unconscious Discrimination
Racism isn't something any of us want to associate ourselves with, but human psychology is wired for snap judgments (schemas) that bypass our conscious thought, leaving room for prejudices to sneak in and affect our actions. Actions informed by stereotypes and assumptions pave the way for discriminatory behavior.
What can be done? The first step is accepting that we are fallible, that even good, caring people fall prey to prejudicial thoughts. Accepting this fact about human nature will allow you to be more mindful of your actions. Check yourself to make sure you are not making assumptions about a person. Be on the lookout for broad-stroked generalizations you or your colleagues make and ask yourself where these ideas are coming from. Awareness is the only way to overcome this.
Lack of Federal Protection for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
It surprises many people, REALTORS® included, that sexual orientation is not a protected class in the Fair Housing Act. States like Colorado do have legislation to include orientation and gender identity from housing discrimination, but there is no such protection at the federal level.
What can be done? The National Association of REALTORS® does include sexual orientation and gender identity in the Code of Ethics, and is advocating for an amendment to the Fair Housing Act to include these classes of individuals. By being a REALTOR®, you are already doing your part to adhere to this standard - be proud to remind your sphere of influence that you do!