Owning a home is a near-universal dream, yet tax policies, laws, and racial inequities create barriers for underrepresented communities, inhibiting them from making that dream a reality. April is National Fair Housing Month and, while we acknowledge the strides that have been made thus far, we must also recognize the tough work ahead. It is work that requires a collective effort. Fortunately, our industry has leadership and talent to drive change.
Coldwell Banker embraces a diverse network of agents and broker-owners, many of whom are members of national multicultural real estate organizations. I recently connected with several of them as part of my mission to continue to humbly learn and uplift voices: Lydia Pope, president of National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB); Janice Lee, chairwoman of the Chinese Real Estate Association of America (CREAA); Kurt Nishimura, national president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA); and Irving Cham, member of NAREB.
To amplify their voices and efforts toward progress, their full interviews will be shared as part of a special series. Visit the Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog throughout the month of April to learn how each leader is advocating for fair housing.
Gehringer: How is your organization focused on tackling fair housing issues in 2023?
Pope: Racial bias in the mortgage lending process and saving money for a down payment are two of the major deterrents to Black homeownership. Among other priorities, NAREB is prioritizing the elimination of loan-level price adjusters and penalty fees for borrowers to access down payment assistance as well as expanding down payment assistance programs.
Lee: Texas Senate Bill 147 is currently excluding property rights to certain individuals related to China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran, regardless of legal standing in the U.S. While the intent of the bill is targeted at national security, we have to protect the rights of these individuals, which is why CREAA is working on a statement so decision-makers can understand the real estate ownership concerns of Asian Americans.
Gehringer: What are immediate concerns in your community and local market?
Nishimura: AREAA conducted an internal survey last year and safety was the number one priority for people when it comes to relocating to a new area, whereas in the past education has traditionally been the top priority. We are fighting to bring down the barriers to homeownership and create equal access for all.
Lee: There is a lot of fear being Asian in America today with the rise in hate crimes and negative rhetoric. We need to create opportunities for education and connections with individuals who will hear our concerns to help elevate our voices.
Gehringer: In what ways have you seen fair housing progress over the past few years?
Cham: The housing conversation has changed drastically. Even just five years ago we were not having the conversations we are having today that are actively tackling issues. The more people we talk to, the greater chance we have at connecting with the right person who can hear our concerns and help spark significant change.
Pope: Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development made available over $19.4 million in American Rescue Plan funding to agencies working to address the unequal impact the COVID pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities and other vulnerable populations. This funding provides resources and support to victims of housing discrimination and is being used to conduct housing education and outreach activities, as well as address fair housing inquiries, complaints and investigations.
Gehringer: What still needs to be done to address fair housing?
Cham: As people relocate, the U.S. population grows and cost of living increases. The only way to offset these changes is through increasing housing inventory. Exclusionary zoning laws place restrictions on where homes can be built and discriminate against people of color. Eliminating these laws would be a driving factor for more inventory and can spark a real estate boom.
Nishimura: The U.S. is experiencing an affordability issue in most markets which can sometimes lead to favoritism, so it is important we take into consideration how to increase inventory while maintaining affordable housing. Today, many working individuals are outbid on a home by wealthy investors leading to an increasing wealth gap and a series of onset problems.
What can every agent do going forward?
As we set off on this Fair Housing Month, Coldwell Banker is proud to bring these relentless industry champions to the fore. Read the full series on Blue Matter to learn how these leaders are addressing housing inequities and steps you can take to make an impact in your community. I also encourage you to find out more about the incredible work being done by organizations such as NAREB and AREAA and consider joining a local chapter where the real work is taking place.