The real estate industry contributed to racial inequality and segregation in housing, an “outrage” that merits a historic apology, the incoming president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said.
“What Realtors did was an outrage to our morals and our ideals,” Charlie Oppler said Thursday during a virtual fair-housing summit hosted by the group. “It was a betrayal of our commitment to fairness and equality.”
It was the first time the association, with 1.4 million members, has apologized for its role in fomenting housing discrimination, a legacy that has contributed to widening economic and racial inequality. The homeownership rate among Black Americans was 46% as of Sept. 30, compared with 67% for all U.S. households and 76% for white Americans, Census Bureau data show.
The NAR opposed passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and allowed exclusion of members based on race or gender, according to a statement from the group. That discrimination was part of systemic residential racial segregation, led by the federal government and supported by the U.S. banking system through practices like redlining, the NAR said.
Home equity is the biggest source of household net worth, according to Federal Reserve data, putting minorities at a disadvantage generation after generation. Black homebuyers continue to face hurdles, such as lower credit scores and less money for down payments, which limit their ability to get on the American Dream escalator of homeownership. A “Black tax” averages $13,464 during the life of their home loans to cover such costs as mortgage insurance and higher interest rates, according to a study by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology group.
An apology from the NAR is long overdue and falls short of the need for reparations to compensate African Americans for the financial disadvantages caused by discrimination, according to Donnell Williams, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, an industry association that promotes Black homeownership. His group was founded in 1947 because the Realtors “wouldn’t allow us in the club,” he said.
“The difference of Black American wealth and white wealth is tied directly to homeownership,” Williams said. “They manipulated the entire system.”
The Realtors recently implemented a new fair-housing campaign and a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Equality of Opportunity Initiative, to ensure they “lead in the fight against housing discrimination,” according to the statement.
“Now we are talking about expanding the Fair Housing Act in ways we could not have imagined perhaps several decades ago,” Bryan Greene, the NAR’s director of fair housing, said in the statement.