How do you advocate for fair housing without alienating others in the business? Lee Davenport shares the paradigm shift that has informed her training.

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Autumn is my favorite time of year, as someone who grew up in Michigan with vibrant fall colors and delectable donuts and cider. This year, the very next day after Labor Day, I changed my Zoom backgrounds to some of my favorite scary movie scenes (like the hallway in The Shining) and grabbed a pumpkin spice latte although it was still 90-degree weather in Georgia.

In short, I enjoy the make-believe thrillers that come with the Halloween season.

But real-life terror is a whole different thing.

Interestingly, some in our industry are, at the least, alarmed, and at the worst, fighting for their lives. What’s got some of us in fear like we are Jamie Lee Curtis in the never-ending Halloween saga? 

There seems to be a real estate boogeyman where if we say these words too often — like in Candyman — our business is doomed. 

The words? Fair housing or any word that carries the same sentiment, like diversity or inclusion.

Staying focused on fair housing

These articles (click here and here) are just two of various examples of resistance to being slapped on the hand for fair housing (and lending) violations.

Furthermore, though I have been teaching various versions of fair housing for years, since I have made it one of my main talking points in the past two years, guess what? Many of you have been transparent (thank you!) about your experiences with clients who frankly violate fair housing regularly.

  • The landlord who wants only certain types “that just so happen” to fall along protected classes and will exploit or abuse their tenants
  • The homeseller who will search social media accounts for the names from offer documents and eliminate prospective buyers based on sexual orientation and any other protected class that does not suit their fancy
  • Investors still blockbusting like it’s pre-1968

The quandary for you, as you have candidly shared with me (again, thank you!), has been:

How do you uphold fair housing laws without alienating your clients, colleagues and vendor partners, who may be family, friends, and movers and shakers in your community?

Ultimately, your questions at the start of my three- or six-hour continuing education Fair Housing Decoder courses suggest that you are seeking a way to advocate without alienating others.

Dr. King said it this way:

“Our aim has never been to put the bus company out of business, but rather to put justice in business.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Statement on Ending the Bus Boycott, 1956 

For those of us in the real estate industry, it’s not about buses but rather equal and equitable access and opportunity in housing.

Wholeheartedly, I believe our only way forward, to borrow from Dr. King, is to not focus so much on putting others out of business (though there is a time and place for penalties) but rather on putting fair housing in business.

In other words, “advocate and not alienate” has been my new mantra since the end of 2021.

What do I mean?

Fair housing can be more like Halloween treats and less like Halloween tricks (“gotcha” moments).

Check out the video excerpt above from the course How to Be a Fair Housing Decoder where I explain this concept and share some success stories of this paradigm shift. 

Lee Davenport is a licensed real estate broker, trainer and coach. Follow her on YouTube, or visit her website.

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