With the impacts of COVID-19 and the recent civil unrest, biases that have existed for generations have been pushed to the forefront of our consciousness. Systemic change has been catapulted forward as a priority in the United States and the global economy.
The positive conversations we’ve witnessed in recent months stemming from the social injustice movement create a significant opportunity for the real estate community to be a part of this defining moment in history — and a part of the solution. But how?
Even through the challenges we face during the COVID-19 era, Colorado’s housing market and so many others, continue to burn red-hot. Yet, significant issues remain in homeowner diversity in many markets across the nation. While it’s a primary driver of wealth creation in America, there is a major disparity in homeownership across demographic groups.
A study by Apartmentlist.com found that 64 percent of white households in the U.S. are homeowners, compared to 54 percent of Asian households, 41 percent of Hispanic households, and just 32.7 percent of Black households.
According to the study, “This racial divide underscores the increasing inequality that plagues the United States.” At the state level, the least diverse areas are found in northern New England, across the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states.
The racial disparity in homeownership remains a pervasive issue that lacks any silver-bullet policy solution. If we want to create successful, sustainable neighborhoods at every socioeconomic level, it won’t happen by accident. It will take a strong community network to face homeownership disparity on a local level.
Now’s the perfect time to identify specific ways to help underserved communities — to celebrate diversity and to better relate to one another.
By shifting our mindsets, together we can support a multicultural and multigenerational real estate industry. To the benefit of us all. It’s both good business and good for business. These are some ways the real estate community can be a change agent:
1. Education is key
Commit to better understanding the history of FHA, and participate in training classes that allow comfortable discussion on uncomfortable topics surrounding diversity. Read, read, read, and discuss books on the subject matter.
2. Engage in results-driven conversations
As a real estate agent, consider yourself an ambassador to your community. Talk with influential thought leaders such as your local Realtor associations to expand education programs by including more classes on fair housing, diversity and inclusion.
This approach is the opposite example of grassroots, but instead, it emphasizes the impact that can be made in your community by working from the top down.
3. Work with local municipalities
As policymakers at the federal, state and local levels attempt to address the issues of diversity and fair housing with policies and regulations, we, as Realtors, can influence those policies for the better by making our voices heard, and educating others with our first-hand perspective from the front lines.
The success of this approach results in examples like a mixed-use development that has a diversity of luxury, market-rate and affordable housing, or neighborhood cultural preservation verses exclusionary gentrification and displacement — and it happens by engaging in conversations among peers, and local civic and thought leaders.
4. Look at your leadership
Does your brokerage support equity in housing through the resources it offers its agents? Kentwood Real Estate, for example, has a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) council comprised of real estate agents identifying opportunities and initiatives dedicated to leading this change.
Ignite change by requesting resources, education, tools and representation that’s in tune with solutions to implement positive momentum. This is more than an idea. This is a movement that, collectively, the real estate community has the opportunity to change for the positive for generations to come.
With a laser focus on equity — not just in property but in people — we can be a part of the change. Systemic balance will happen within the industry, not only from the outside looking in. Be a change agent within your real estate brokerage.