According to Julia Lashay Israel, Keller Williams’ head of inclusion and belonging, by fostering an inclusive and equitable housing market, real estate businesses can attract a diverse clientele, enhance their reputation and contribute to a more prosperous society.

In a progressive move towards promoting equality and combating discrimination in the real estate industry, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) will now mandate that all members take required fair housing training. The new requirement was approved by the association’s Board of Directors at its May 11 meeting.

The initiative is part of NAR’s Fair Housing Action Plan: ACT!, which aims to ensure Realtors are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America, with an emphasis on accountability, culture change and training. 

The implementation of mandatory fair housing training requirements for Realtors demonstrates the commitment of the NAR to uphold ethical standards and acknowledges the importance of educating professionals in the industry about the laws and regulations surrounding fair housing. 

Understanding fair housing

Fair housing is a fundamental concept that upholds the principle that every individual has the right to access housing opportunities without facing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. It is a cornerstone of a just and equitable society, and its enforcement is critical in shaping a diverse and inclusive community.

The Fair Housing Act was enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminatory practices such as refusing to rent or sell housing, setting different terms or conditions based on protected characteristics, providing false information about the availability of housing, and harassing or intimidating individuals based on their protected status. 

The new requirements

NAR new-member applicants must now complete two hours of fair housing training, and existing members must complete two hours of fair housing training every three years as a condition of NAR membership, including one training option that is of no cost to members. The three-year cycle coincides with NAR’s existing Code of Ethics training requirement and begins in 2025.

This training will help realtors understand their responsibilities and obligations to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities for all clients and customers. It will also provide agents with a comprehensive understanding of the laws, regulations and best practices related to fair housing.

By enhancing their knowledge in this domain, agents will be better equipped to identify and address potential biases, stereotypes, and discriminatory practices that could arise during their interactions with clients.

Benefits for real estate professionals

Fair housing training benefits not only society but also real estate professionals themselves. Embracing diversity and inclusivity expands market opportunities and helps professionals thrive in an evolving landscape. By promoting fair housing practices, real estate professionals can demonstrate their commitment to providing equal opportunities for everyone, thereby attracting a more diverse range of buyers and renters.

Expanding real estate agents’ understanding of fair housing laws and practices can foster stronger relationships with clients and customers. Real estate professionals will be better equipped to provide guidance and support in a fair and unbiased manner, thus building trust and credibility within their communities.

Moreover, fair housing training can help agents avoid legal complications and reputational risks. Discrimination lawsuits and negative media coverage can severely damage a business’s standing and financial well-being.

By staying informed about their obligations and responsibilities, real estate professionals can minimize the risk of unintentional fair housing violations and discriminatory practices avoiding the potential penalties of up to $16,000, which increase to $65,000 for repeat offenders.

Benefits for the community

Fair housing is not just about individual transactions; it is about fostering a vibrant and inclusive community. The real estate market plays a significant role in shaping communities and determining where people live. Therefore, it is crucial that Realtors are well-informed about fair housing laws and practices to avoid perpetuating discriminatory practices, both intentional and unintentional.

According to the 2023 Snapshot of Race and Homebuying in America Report, 50 percent of Hispanic/Latino homebuyers reported being steered towards or away from a neighborhood. When businesses actively promote fair housing practices, they contribute to the creation of diverse neighborhoods where people from all walks of life can thrive.

Inclusive communities are more resilient, economically vibrant and socially cohesive. By actively participating in fair housing initiatives, businesses become agents of positive change, creating an environment that benefits everyone involved.

Fair housing is good for business

Fair housing is not just a moral imperative; it is also good for business. Embracing and promoting fair housing practices can yield significant benefits for real estate professionals, companies and the broader community. By fostering an inclusive and equitable housing market, businesses can attract a diverse clientele, enhance their reputation, and contribute to a more prosperous society. 

A commitment to fair housing can significantly enhance a company’s reputation and brand value. In an era where social responsibility is increasingly valued by consumers, businesses that champion fairness and equality are likely to be viewed favorably by the public. This positive perception can attract a loyal customer base and lead to increased brand recognition and market share.

NAR’s move to require fair housing training not only benefits clients and communities but also protects the professional integrity of real estate professionals and helps maintain a positive image of the real estate industry as a whole.

Room for continued progress

While the NAR’s new training requirement is a commendable and significant step in the right direction, it is essential to recognize that fair housing training alone may not completely eradicate discrimination or bias. Ongoing efforts, including diversity and inclusion initiatives and fostering cultural competence, are also crucial to address systemic issues and to create a more inclusive and equitable environment.

As we embrace these changes, we must continue to strive for progress, recognizing that fair housing is a shared responsibility that requires ongoing commitment from all stakeholders involved in the real estate industry.

As the head of inclusion and belonging for Keller Williams Realty International, Julia Lashay Israel advises, trains and coaches leaders, team members and agents to recognize and address diversity, equity and inclusion opportunities and challenges across the organization.

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