Robert Backer: Homeownership For All
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - by Robert Backer, president, Greater Chattanooga Realtors
The dream of homeownership is sadly being kept out of reach for many in this country. According to a study just released by the National Association of Realtors, the homeownership rate for black Americans – 42 percent – is nearly 30 percent less than the rate for white Americans – 69.8 percent. The U.S. homeownership rate stands at 64.2 percent, with the rates for Asian and Hispanic Americans at 60.7 percent and 48.1 percent, respectively.
While there are many reasons for this discrepancy, NAR also showed that black households – 43 percent – are more than twice as likely than white households – 21 percent – to have student loan debt, with a median student loan debt for black households of $40,000 compared to $30,000 for white households.
This study shows that much more must be done to combat this discrepancy in homeownership.
The ability to own a home has led to generational wealth for many families, and this financial security is important to provide for a family’s future. But unfortunately, we see that racism and discrimination still keep this out of reach for many in our country.
So what can be done to fight against this? When clients ask me what the difference is between using a realtor or a real estate agent, I proudly tell them that as a realtor, I am bound to a strict Code of Ethics that imposes duties above and beyond those imposed by law which apply only to real estate professionals who choose to become realtors. Our code is what sets me, and my fellow realtors, apart.
Today’s Realtor Code of Ethics requires realtors to provide equal services regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and national origin in accordance with the Fair Housing Act. The code even goes beyond the act by covering sexual orientation and gender identity. NAR also provides members with guidance and resources to understand and comply with the law through its Fair Housing Program.
It's easy to think of ourselves as the hero in our story. But embarrassingly, for many years our industry was in opposition to fair housing. In fact, the National Association of Real Estate Boards (which would later become the National Association of Realtors) actively fought against the passage of the Fair Housing Act. It’s unthinkable now, but the National Association included the phrase “A realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood ... members of any race or nationality ... whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood,” in the association’s 1924 Code of Ethics. Embarrassingly, the reference to “race or nationality” was not removed until 1950.
Currently, NAR is working to ensure realtors are active leaders in the fight against bias and discrimination. Last year, NAR began implementing its fair housing "ACT" plan, – which emphasizes Accountability, Culture Change and Training. As a part of this plan, NAR released a new interactive training platform – Fairhaven – designed to help combat discrimination in America's real estate market. In addition, NAR developed an implicit bias training video with strategies to help realtors override biases in their daily interactions.
Locally, Greater Chattanooga Realtors has taken steps to help our membership be more aware of the different cultural perspectives that are here in our community.
Our Diversity & Inclusion committee exists to promote equal opportunity and cultural diversity within the real estate industry and encourages an Association culture that embraces and celebrates our differences.
Our Diversity & Inclusion Committee is just one of the ways we as an association, and our members, are listening and learning from everyone in our vibrant and thriving community. Realtors work to make homeownership more accessible to everyone, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s Who We R.