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CEO DATELINE – Realtors group apologizes for past discriminatory practices, bans hate speech

Nov. 20, 2020
By Kathryn Walson

The National Association of Realtors issued an apology Thursday for its 20th-century policies that contributed to racial inequality that persists today.

“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,” NAR President Charlie Oppler said during a virtual fair housing summit hosted by The Hill and co-sponsored by NAR.

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“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 Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex and other factors.

NAR also allowed the exclusion of members based on race and sex. And it participated in redlining, a practice once backed by the federal government in which banks denied people mortgages based on where they lived.

“Because of our past mistakes, the real estate industry has a special role to play in the fight for fair housing,” Oppler said. 

NAR recently launched ACT, a fair housing initiative focused on accountability, culture change and training. The association also partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Equality of Opportunity Initiative to advance economic inclusion. NAR also works with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the Urban Institute to address low rates of African American homeownership.

Additionally, NAR amended its Code of Ethics Nov. 13 to ban hate speech among members.

According to a Q&A on the association’s website that explains the board’s decision: “During the social unrest throughout the nation in late spring and summer of 2020, NAR received an unprecedented number of complaints about Realtors posting discriminatory speech and conduct online, especially on social media. Local and state associations experienced a similar influx of these complaints.”

“When one Realtor engages in discriminatory speech and conduct, those actions demonstrate to consumers that they represent the actions of Realtors collectively. … It is incumbent upon our organization to ... protect the Realtor brand and ensure its strength endures for years to come.”

NAR’s new ethics rule does not apply retroactively to past alleged hate speech. Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the alleged violation.