One week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Congress passed the Fair Housing Act which made it illegal to deny housing based on race, religion, sex, or nationality.
It was a landmark achievement for civil rights in American housing at the time, and a defining moment in the civil rights era. Unfortunately, however, racial discrimination is far from a thing of the past.
A recent investigation by Newsday into housing practices on Long Island revealed widespread disparate treatment and discrimination by real estate agents against prospective tenants and homeowners. It was a harsh reminder that there is still considerable work to be done to achieve the vision expressed by Dr. King and fellow civil rights activists a half-century ago.
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is deeply disturbed by the findings reported in Newsday and strongly condemns them. Everyone is entitled to equal access and opportunity when searching for the home of their dreams. It is our responsibility as industry leaders to ensure that these dreams can become a reality.
That is why our organization is committed to doing everything possible to provide each one of our members with the resources necessary to continue to comply with the Fair Housing Act (and all Fair Housing laws).
We offer courses on fair housing compliance multiple times a month, and we recently launched a new program called the Core Legal Concepts for the Successful Real Estate Agent. Coursework involves a seven-and-a-half-hour deep dive into key legal issues and will devote three of those to fair housing continuing education. The next session will be held on January 24. We encourage all of our members to register and attend.
A companion to the class is Fair Housing Fridays – a weekly email fromREBNY’s Broker Counsel, Neil Garfinkel. Each week we highlight a different area or question for our members related to fair housing compliance. We also include compliance regulations in our REBNY Residential Listing Service that automatically identify and address violations that may be contained in listing information.
Finally, we remind all REBNY members that they are required to follow our Code of Ethics and Professional Practices, which includes required compliance with all applicable Fair Housing laws. The violation of laws that prohibit discrimination, harassment, and/or bias is simply not tolerated.
The passage of the Fair Housing Act remains one of the most important moments in the history of both our country and our industry. It is a powerful testament to our ideals, and we must not lose sight of the work necessary to achieve them. REBNY is committed to providing resources to our members in order to assist them in complying with all Fair Housing laws and to ensure that everyone in America, no matter their background, has the chance to live wherever they would like.
After all, that’s the American dream.