The National Association of Realtors is considering changes to its core standards for local Realtor associations that would require they include diversity, equity and inclusion and fair housing components into their activities, strategic plans, and leadership training.
Core standards are minimum requirements that state and local associations must comply with annually in order to remain Realtor-affiliated. On Friday, at NAR’s annual conference, the Realtors Conference & Expo, the trade group’s Association Executives Committee approved several changes to the core standards that will now go to the NAR board of directors for a vote on Nov. 13. The proposed changes would apply only to local associations.
The core standards proposals come as the 1.4 million-member trade group is also considering controversial proposed changes to its code of ethics that would crack down on racist and discriminatory speech and behavior among members.
The core standards changes would require that association strategic plans include diversity, equity and inclusion and fair housing components and that associations annually certify that they have conducted or promoted a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) activity and a fair housing activity. They would also require that leadership development and training include “a commitment” to greater diversity, equity and inclusion among the association’s volunteer leadership.
While the core standards currently do not allow one activity to serve more than one requirement, the committee is recommending that DEI and fair housing activities be allowed to fulfill current advocacy or consumer outreach requirements under the core standards in order to make the new mandates less burdensome for associations.
“Our rationale [for the DEI and fair housing activity requirements] is that NAR’s 2021 strategic priorities call for greater DEI among association members and leaders, and a commitment to achieving housing equality and affordability,” Jan Marie Ennenga, vice chair of the committee’s core standards work group, told attendees at the conference’s Association Executives Forum, which took place before the committee meeting.
Mike Valerino, chair of the work group, said there was no “one-size-fits-all solution” to the kinds of activities that could fulfill the requirement.
“There are a whole variety of options across the board, everything from conducting fair housing training, conducting an At Home With Diversity course, forming a diversity committee or a fair housing committee, conducting implicit bias training,” Valerino said. “There’s an option for ‘Other’ for associations that really want to get innovative and do something that hasn’t been thought of before.”
Two of the policy recommendations don’t have anything to do with fair housing directly. They would require that associations have the ability to interact with members remotely through a virtual meeting platform and would require associations that administer professional standards to employ a certified professional standards administrator. The latter is already required under NAR policy, but if it were added to the core standards, NAR would modify its core standards compliance tool to enable associations to identify their professional standards administrator, Valerino said.
The six policy proposals are below.
Recommendation No. 1: “To amend the Core Standards requirements to acknowledge that associations may meet the existing Advocacy requirement for ‘Act’ under the Realtor Party goals and the existing Consumer Outreach ‘Being the Voice for Real Estate’ and ‘Community involvement and investment’ requirements through activities that demonstrate a commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Fair Housing.”
Recommendation No. 2: “To amend the Core Standards requirements to require that association strategic plans include a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and a Fair Housing component.”
Recommendation No. 3: “To amend the Core Standards requirements to require associations to annually certify that they have conducted or promoted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and a Fair Housing Activity, with options for completion that take into consideration association membership size and diversity.”
Recommendation No. 4: “To amend the Core Standards requirement for leadership development education/training to include a commitment to greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusion among the association’s volunteer leadership; to increase leadership education and awareness of the Core Standards; and to ensure greater understanding of staff and volunteer leadership roles and responsibilities.”
Recommendation No. 5: “To amend the Core Standards requirements to require associations to have the ability to interact with members in a remote work environment via a virtual meeting platform.”
Recommendation No. 6: “To amend the Core Standards requirements to require all associations that administer professional standards to have the services of a certified Professional Standards Administrator.”
The committee also approved a couple of recommendations from its association leadership diversity work group, both of which will be implemented. Because they were internal motions, neither required approval from NAR’s board of directors.
The first reads: “To develop and provide a resource for state and local associations on a clear case for inclusion of diversity that includes a summary of the history of race and real estate; the benefits of greater education, awareness, and discussion of racial issues; and an overview of how inclusion of diversity and partnership with local multicultural real estate groups helps the association achieve its goals.”
Michelle Mills Clement, chair of the work group, said the rationale for the recommendation was “starting at the beginning.”
“A lot of groups have come to us and shared they don’t know where to begin,” she said. “They might have started a task force or a committee, but they don’t really understand why we’re here to begin with. Many people don’t know the history of race in real estate. I know everybody’s reading The Color of Law now, but we think we can make this business case a lot more clear and provide more introductions to this purpose.”
“We want to make sure that groups that are starting new diversity initiatives have the tools needed in place, but first and foremost are able to identify why they’re doing this work in the first place, as well as present the business case for organizations or associations that may not be ready to start this,” she added.
The second policy recommendation presented by the association leadership diversity work group expressed support for the committee’s core standards changes regarding DEI and fair housing and added that the committee would “encourage local associations to measure, to assess and encourage increased diversity in their leadership relative to their market area demographics.”
The recommendation originally read “require local associations to measure …” but some of the committee members thought that would impose a mandate on associations that would lead to diversity quotas. The committee voted to change “require” to “encourage.”