On the heels of a news story saying real estate agents treated clients differently based on race, the National Association of Realtors has launched a new program to improve its members’ knowledge and practices surrounding fair housing.
The National Association of Realtors has rolled out a new initiative to help ensure their members understand and practice fair housing rules. The ACT Initiative, which focuses on accountability, culture change, and training, was rolled out last week at an event with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
“This commits the National Association of Realtors to do more to protect the housing rights of all Americans and make sure people of all backgrounds have equal access to housing,” said Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy. “It focuses on ensuring that our Realtors know the law, that they embrace the law, and that they are accountable to the public and the code of ethics.”
The initiative comes two months after a Newsday report detailed the results of a three-year undercover probe which revealed that real estate agents in New York routinely discriminated against minority house hunters.
“Newsday ran a report of an investigation on Long Island that showed real estate agents—despite our training and despite our code of ethics—some are still engaging in discrimination,” Greene said. “The Newsday piece underscored in real time why this is so important.”
Among other things, the new ACT initiative directs NAR to create more robust fair housing education, including unconscious-bias training; conduct a national study to determine what factors motivate discrimination in sales markets; and work closely with state association executives to ensure that state licensing laws include effective fair-housing training requirements and hold real estate agents accountable to their fair housing obligations.
Greene noted that NAR has already made a number of resources on fair housing practices available to members on its website. The group also wants the new training its developing for members to explore the complexities and subtleties that crop up in unfair housing practices. “Many factors come into play, and we want to make sure real estate agents have full training in race issues and unconscious bias,” Greene said. “We want to survey the leading-edge training on these issues and make sure we’re providing that to our members.”
Member reaction to the initiative has so far been positive. “Our state and local associations are engaging with us already,” Greene said. “I, personally, have a full dance card of engagements to work with them on this issue. They’re very excited about it, and, irrespective of the ACT plan, they’re excited about fair housing. There are many people who want to do more, and they want to see NAR do more.”