Working to ensure that housing and opportunity is available to all regardless of differences

As a member of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real-Estate Professionals (NAGLREP ), we have been challenged to also get involved at the local level. After looking at the Ohio Association of REALTORS®’ (OAR) web site, I found the Equal Opportunity & Diversity Forum, and became a member. I spent some time searching the Columbus REALTORS®’ web site and couldn’t find any committee with a title that sounded inviting in the area of Diversity.

So I sent Sara Walsh, our Columbus REALTORS® President, an email to introduced myself and asked if we could meet for coffee. I think it was within five minutes I received a phone call from Sara and she agreed to meet with me. After several phone conversations and coffee, Sara stated she would like to start a “Diversity and Inclusion” Task Force, ask if I would be interested in leading this task force and invited me to meet with her and members of the Columbus REALTORS®/Realtist Task Force and the Affordable Housing Committee, which seemed to be the catch-all committee for fair housing and diversity, on June 6, 2018. 

With the events and celebrations focusing on the 50th Anniversary off fair housing, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force seem to be falling into place at a good time, especially since NAR’s recent 2018 “Fair Housing at 50” article states that, “It's clear that the National Association of REALTORS®, local REALTOR® associations and REALTOR® members across the country have the opportunity and responsibility to increase efforts to support diversity and inclusivity in the real estate market.” The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force will be looking to increase awareness of fair housing issues, eliminate intolerance among real estate practitioners and the public, grow diverse leadership within the Columbus REALTORS® Association and more.

Inez Williams, co-vice chair of the Columbus REALTORS® 2018 Affordable Housing Committee, and I will co-chair the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. We are working with the staff at Columbus REALTORS® and have drafted a few immediate goals, to:

  1. provide an arena for open dialog on issues affecting fair housing;
  2. host forums highlighting awareness of diversity and inclusion issues;
  3. network with other affiliate organizations and institute associations; and
  4. cultivate participation and leadership opportunities.

Some might ask why the need for such a task force. I feel an explanation may be very fitting.

In 2017, NAR President William E. Brown sent a letter of support to Congress for the “Fair and Equal Housing Act,” and in that letter he quoted a 2016 study in northeastern Ohio that showed a 30 to 35 percent rate of discrimination in rentals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
 
We also know in today’s political climate discussion of differences is often a challenge. During this year’s spring legislative meetings in D.C. and, in light of the 50th Anniversary of Fair Housing Act, a California congressman told our REALTOR® members he thought it was acceptable for a home owner to decide not to sell their home to someone whose lifestyle they don’t agree with.

Additionally, we heard at the last Ohio REALTORS® Equal Opportunity & Diversity Forum about a recent Ohio civil rights case where the buyer of an apartment complex told the seller the only reason he was buying the apartment complex was to evict all the black tenants. And, the list could go on.

I hope these disheartening examples of discrimination demonstrate we still have work to do to ensure fair housing is available to all people regardless of differences.

If interested in learning more about the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, and how you can get involved, we invite you to attend our first official task force meeting set for Tuesday, Aug 7, 2018, 9a, at the Columbus REALTORS® Membership Headquarters, 2700 Airport Drive, Columbus 43219.

Please RSVP to Lynn Hackworth at Lhackworth@ColumbusRealtors.com.