As state governments across the country debate whether structural racism exists, whether it should be compensated for with reparations, or discussed in classrooms, a group of minority real estate professionals is about to hold its next conference addressing related homeownership and career issues in the last week of Black History Month.
The National Association of Real Estate Brokers sees what it calls “institutional discrimination” persisting in the financial service sectors that keep Black homeownership rates lower than that of other groups – and even lower than it was 19 years ago – while creating challenges for its members.
In the introduction to NAREB’s latest State of Housing in Black America (SHIBA) report published in November 2022, the organization identified “institutional biases that have undermined Black homeownership,” citing lenders using outdated credit scoring models, federal housing finance institutions charging financially vulnerable borrowers more to access mortgage loans, allowing predatory loan marketing, and failing to expunge appraisal discrimination.
“The year 2004 marked the highest rate of homeownership for Blacks (at just under 50 percent),” wrote the organization’s president Lydia Pope in the report’s forward. Losses to this community have been substantial since the housing market collapsed 15 years ago, she noted, adding that despite a national recovery, “by the second quarter of 2019, the Black homeownership rate had fallen to 40.6 percent – a rate lower than the Black homeownership rate in 1968, the year the Fair Housing Act was established in law.”
Education for Equity
NAREB’s mid-winter conference, to be held in San Diego from February 22 through 26, will address these issues with targeted career-building sessions like “Recruitment of Black Professionals: How to Become an Appraiser,” to help reduce pervasive bias in this underrepresented field. Much has been written recently in prominent publications like the Washington Post and New York Times about dramatic inequities in home appraisals for Black homeowners, based both on the racial profile of the homeowner and the neighborhood – even in affluent areas. NAREB would like to see more Black appraisers join the industry to serve homeowners more fairly.
Community action is another topic that will be tackled at the event. “As NAREB partners with various organizations such as the African American Mayors Association, we want to ensure our members have a seat at the table to advance the agenda of Building Black Wealth in various cities,” the preliminary agenda suggests for a session, beckoning attendees, “Come and gain the knowledge that will position and prepare you for Boards and Land Bank Commissions in your city.”
A session on the last morning of the event will “dive deep into current housing discrimination cases” and one that afternoon will “clearly identify the barriers that Black women face on their home ownership journey and outline strategies and solutions to help Black women overcome these obstacles.”
What sets the NAREB conference apart from similar industry gatherings with universally-popular tips on search engine optimization, team building, media skills and marketing is its special focus on addressing racial biases – both casual and structural – that keep Blacks from thriving as real estate professionals and homeowners.
Whether your statehouse wants these topics covered in high school or college classrooms, the leaders of this professional real estate association that predates the Fair Housing Act by two decades absolutely wants to teach them in their conference classrooms this month. And any real estate firms that aim to expand and serve new markets in their regions could benefit by studying the lessons.