NAR Apologizes for Past Policies that Contributed to Racial Inequality

Real Estate In-Depth | November 2020

NAR Director of Fair Housing Bryan Greene said, “Realtors have an admittedly tough history, but we have turned the corner and now have emerged as leaders on these important issues.”

CHICAGO—Newly-installed National Association of Realtors President Charlie Oppler issued a formal apology on Nov. 19 for the association’s past policies that contributed to segregation and racial inequality in America.

During a virtual fair housing summit hosted by The Hill and co-sponsored by NAR, Oppler offered an emotional apology on behalf of the industry for NAR’s actions during a large part of the 20th century.

“What Realtors did was an outrage to our morals and our ideals. It was a betrayal of our commitment to fairness and equality. I’m here today, as the president of the National Association of Realtors, to say that we were wrong,” Oppler said. “We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye. And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what Realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”

NAR initially opposed passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, and at one time allowed the exclusion of members based on race or sex. This discrimination was part of a systematic policy of residential racial segregation, led by the federal government and supported by America’s banking system and real estate industry, and driven by practices like redlining.

“Because of our past mistakes, the real estate industry has a special role to play in the fight for fair housing,” said Oppler, a Realtor from Franklin Lakes, N.J., and the CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty.

Alongside NAR Director of Fair Housing Bryan Greene, Thursday’s discussions also focused on current and future efforts by NAR to lead the industry’s defense of fair housing.

“Realtors have an admittedly tough history, but we have turned the corner and now have emerged as leaders on these important issues,” Greene said. “Now we are talking about expanding the Fair Housing Act in ways we could not have imagined perhaps several decades ago.

“You can see in our neighborhoods the imprints of redlining from 80 years ago,” Greene continued. “Many of these discriminatory practices denied the opportunities for families to pass on wealth. We see that white Americans own 10 times the wealth of African-Americans.

He continued, “So, these are serious issues, and they have broader impacts on society beyond housing. It means that we have health disparities, employment disparities, educational disparities. This is the legacy of the past… We have to address it.”

NAR recently implemented its fair housing initiative, ACT, designed to highlight Accountability, Culture Change and Training in order to ensure Realtors lead in the fight against housing discrimination, while also partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Equality of Opportunity Initiative as part of a broad national effort to examine economic inequality and advance economic inclusion. NAR also continues its work alongside the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the Urban Institute to address the persistent low rates of African-American homeownership.