Racial injustice is deeply rooted in American history and is apparent in housing discrimination, even today. April is Fair Housing Month. We wanted to highlight what we, as REALTOR® associations, are doing to ensure fair and equal housing opportunities. The Snohomish County-Camano Association REALTORS® (SCCAR), along with Washington REALTORS® (WR) and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), support equal opportunity in housing and oppose practices and policies which have a known discriminatory effect.
NAR is working to increase minority homeownership and right historical wrongs, and to do so, we are advocating for several key initiatives:
The Preservation of Existing Homeownership through Aid for Mortgage Payments: A major component of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a top NAR priority, has been legislation to keep Americans in their homes. A core part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the mandated pause on mortgage payments for up to 18 months for millions in need. This has helped black borrowers, as this population has been disproportionately more likely to lose jobs due to the pandemic and twice as likely to fall behind on mortgage payments. We believe this assistance should continue, even as the severity of the pandemic abates. The government should continue to support mortgage forbearance, where appropriate, and work with banks and servicers to find ways to extend the time for repayment. Additionally, REALTORS® nationwide help educate homebuyers on their repayment options.
Stimulating Housing Supply: NAR estimates the U.S. is 6.8 million units short in housing production. This is a result of more than a decade of underinvestment in new homes and critical infrastructure. This shortage has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Construction has stalled, the rising cost of building supplies, combined with supply-chain snags, and labor shortages have only made the problem worse. NAR is working with the Biden administration and Congress to make critical investments to address the housing-supply crisis. These steps include tax breaks to incentivize new construction in disinvested neighborhoods, investments in renovation and upgrades to existing affordable housing, construction of new affordable housing units, and making sure those who need help finding affordable housing have the resources to do so. “We're also supporting creative solutions to promote more development on the local level, including federal and state grants to localities who explore solutions to the affordability crisis, such as changes to zoning laws and the construction of new units,” said Ellen Bohn, President of SCCAR.
Reimagining Credit Scores: Past discrimination means people of color, on average, have lower incomes and less intergenerational wealth. Over decades, communities of color have been denied access to the same financial products which white communities have received: helping white borrowers, on average, build more robust credit profiles. Most of today's credit-scoring systems don't recognize fulfillment of common financial obligations, like rent or utility bills. They should. Their omission means many creditworthy consumers are rendered "credit invisible" and left out of the housing market.
Our country is making great strides in defeating COVID-19, but the pandemic's long-term fallout will be devastating for minority homeownership if we do nothing to counteract it. The policy reforms discussed here represent proactive steps to reverse trends which will only worsen if matters are allowed to run their course. We must act now to mitigate past harms exacerbated by a pandemic and unlock the benefits of homeownership for more Americans.
NAR® has also authorized sanctions in response to finding a member has violated any fair housing law, including local and state laws, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. If you experience or witness discrimination in real estate, we urge you to report it: visit www.hud.gov/fairhousing to file a complaint.
For more information about buying or selling a home or to learn of the work REALTORS® are doing to ensure equal housing opportunities, be sure to work with a REALTOR®, a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Snohomish County-Camano Association of REALTORS® is the voice for real estate in Snohomish County. If you have questions about real estate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.sccar.org.