On the surface, the topic of Fair Housing seems relatively simple. For those who call themselves REALTORS®, fair housing is an important set of guidelines, rights and penalties. It’s also important to point out that fair housing is always a part of continuing education requirements.
Diving deeper, it becomes clear that fair housing is essential because the real estate market in general depends on a free, open market with equal opportunities for all. Enacted in 1968 as a part of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination pertaining to the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and familial status.
Sounds easy enough, but ensuring that it is adhered to in practice is more complicated than it may seem at first glance. That is why the leadership of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) met in 2020 to pass a new Fair Housing Action Plan, abbreviated ‘ACT,’ to ensure that the organization would be able to more effectively advocate on national fair housing policy. Key components of the Fair Housing Action Plan put out by the NAR include:
- Culture change
It was partially a response to the fact that fair housing includes a variety of implications, some of which are obvious and some of which, not as much. The subject of disparate impact falls into this area, as it pertains to a decision in 2015 by the Supreme Court pertaining to how illegal housing discrimination can occur whether there was intent to do so or not.
Under the decision, a housing-related policy or practice can be a violation if it disproportionately affects a particular protected class and the accused entity cannot show a legitimate business necessity for the policy, or if it could have achieved that business goal with a less-discriminatory practice. The idea of promoting diversity may also seem fairly simple on the surface.
All those who call themselves REALTORS® are sworn to maintain a strict code of ethics. One of the most important aspects of the code is to simply provide all clients with fair and equal treatment. This code that REALTORS® abide by takes the federal Fair Housing Act a step farther, as it prohibits discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A natural outgrowth of this idea relates to marriage equality and real estate. This subject is more complex than it may appear at first glance, although treating people fairly and equally may seem like a no-brainer to most.
When the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, it created a number of home ownership options for the LGBT community that were previously unavailable. Now, married LGBT couples can get a loan as one household, making it easier to qualify for a mortgage and enjoy the full benefits of homeownership. The decision also changed the way that married LGBT couples can hold a deed, with one of the most important implications being the right to survivorship in the event of the spouse’s death.
For more guidance on the implications of fair housing on the real estate market market, visit CapeFear.REALTOR
or call 910-762-7400.
Ea Ruth is the 2022 president of Cape Fear REALTORS®, an organization with nearly 3,500 members who serve as the region’s Voice of Real Estate. Cape Fear REALTORS®, through advocacy, education, and community involvement, support efforts to protect the rights of property owners, promote the availability of housing, and provide resources to guarantee every individual has the right to share in the “American Dream.” For further information on this topic and the association, please visit www.capefear.realtor or contact the Cape Fear REALTORS® at 910-762-7400.