This year we celebrate 50 years since the “Fair Housing” law was passed (http://history.house.gov/HistoricalHighlight) by the U.S. Federal government. This law “prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of: race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.” (https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-1)
It seems like the topic of Fair Housing has been a consistent issue since then, especially in highly desired areas that people want to live in. I believe we have come a long way since that law was passed in 1968 but we still have ways to go.
I remember hearing stories of how no one would rent an apartment to my parents due to fact that they are an interracial couple. My mother is German & Irish and my father is Nigerian. My father was on a work visa working at Ravenswood hospital in Chicago where he met my mother. They fell in love and were married March 9, 1974. They honeymooned in Europe and spent time with my father’s family in Nigeria.
Shortly after the wedding, my mom found out she was pregnant, with me, and they decided to move back to Chicago where my mother’s family lived. When they got back to Chicago ready to start their new life, they encountered a lot of opposition in trying to rent an apartment. They also experienced a lot of issues socially with being an interracial couple such as having verbal attacks and finding the windows on their car busted in. My parents had no choice but to move in with my mom’s family, and we lived in that house until I went to college.
Looking back, I’m glad I had an opportunity to grow up with my mom’s family because it allowed me to hear the stories of their struggles leaving Germany and the issues they had when they first arrived in the United States. I grew up fully knowing my heritage and culture. I felt completely loved and accepted. I honestly didn’t know I was “different” until I went to college. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
My story is not unlike many other families stories. Unfortunately, even today, too many people experience issues of housing discrimination when they are trying to rent or buy a home that they can afford. Here are some of the issues of housing discrimination are “Blockbusting, Redlining, and Steering”.
Blockbusting – This is “an illegal practice where someone convinces homeowners to quickly sell their property below fair market value by scaring them into believing that their home values are about to plummet because a group of people of a certain race, religion, or national origin are moving into the neighborhood.” (https://study.com/academy/lesson/redlining-blockbusting-steering-definition-differences.html)
Redlining – This is an illegal practice by mortgage and/or insurance companies that deny their products and services due to the area. “The decision to withhold services is NOT based upon an assessment of the individual’s credit risk and other qualifications but is rather based upon a general prejudice about the area where the person is living. “(https://study.com/academy/lesson/redlining-blockbusting-steering-definition-differences.html)
Steering – This is an illegal practice when a real estate agent limits their buyer’s housing options by directing prospective homebuyers interested in a certain area to equivalent properties in different neighborhoods or communities or even different parts of the same development according to the buyer’s race or other characteristics. (https://www.nar.realtor/articles/steering-schools-and-equal-professional-service)
As a real estate broker, I’ve always have been a big advocate of, “If you can afford it then get it” style of business. If you can afford it and you have the money to purchase the home of your dreams, then I don’t see what the problem is with the purchase?
Maybe it’s my business sense or my MBA that keeps me thinking on a basic level of dollars and “sense” (pun on words on purpose). In real estate, the main goal is to help a seller sell their home for the best market value so that they can walk away with the most money possible. Most people see their home as an investment so, to me, it basically boils down to dollars and cents. I love seeing the look on my client’s face when they get a big check at the closing table. The profit that most people make from selling their home is usually used to help the family eliminate major debts, pay off financial emergencies, buy a new home, and/or put them in a stronger financial position that otherwise they would never be able to have.
My motivation to “really” help people is another reason why I started my own brokerage, Skyward Realty. I want to build a brokerage whose actions reflect that we really care about our clients and help them achieve their real estate goals.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have these issues but since we still do, I feel like it’s our responsibility to combat these issues while we’re on the front line. We can do our best by holding ourselves in the highest level of professionalism, keep our focus on the main goal and not let our emotions and personal judgments interfere with our performance. I believe as we set the tone with our clients and other professionals that we work with, that they will follow our lead.
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Written By: Shena Omotola, Dream Home Specialist & Broker Owner of Skyward Realty – Skyward Realty services Chicago, Suburbs, and Northwest Indiana
P.S. Feel free to email me any questions. I’m always here to help. Check out my recent resources for first time home buyers and sellers.
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