Six ways to help end housing discrimination


“We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

It’s a famous line from the classic horror film Jaws, and as Director of the National Association of Realtors’ Fair Housing Policy Advocacy Group, it’s a line Bryan Greene thinks about often, he said in a recent webinar with the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors.

“That’s what I’ve been thinking about recently — that as Realtors, as real estate professionals, we’re gonna need a bigger boat to address the issues that face us,” Greene said.

He noted that an investigative news series by Newsday in late 2019 revealed widespread discrimination in the real estate industry on Long Island. Ten of 12 companies investigated failed tests by undercover clients sent in to determine whether agents were discriminating based on race and other factors.

“As a consumer, you may think you’re getting perfectly good treatment, but you don’t see that the white consumer is being told about homes in a different area or they’re being told that schools are bad in a particular area, and they should go somewhere else, or being told about crime,” Greene said.

He noted that a NAR survey in January showed that 59% said they had not witnessed discrimination in the industry in the last two years, while 8% said they had and 33% said they hadn’t but they believe discrimination exists in the industry.

NAR asked the question again in June, shortly after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the number of respondents who said they had never seen discrimination in the industry dropped to 49%. Another 13% said they have witnessed discrimination and 38% said they had not but they do believe it occurs.

“So that is something we need to reckon with,” Greene said. “We’re talking and spending resources addressing an issue, which still too many people in the profession, certainly in our membership, don’t recognize is still a problem.”

Greene said NAR has a number of initiatives in play to address housing discrimination. NAR most recently released a 52-minute training video on implicit bias and is working to put out a more in-depth video on the topic later this year.

NAR is conducting in-house training of its employees on implicit bias, and they are also working with Chicago-based Ernst & Young’s Noggin Labs to develop a platform where agents play out various scenarios in a virtual world that address discrimination in the real estate industry.

Here are a few steps real estate professionals can take to learn more about the Fair Housing Act and implicit bias.

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