April is Fair Housing Month in observance of the 1968 landmark legislation that ended housing discrimination by law. It seems hard to believe that a generation and a half ago that the things we take for granted were the subject of debate. Fair housing and equal access are so ingrained in our collective minds and profession that it seems inconceivable that we would ever discriminate based on race, religion or anything else for that matter.
I recall hearing Cornell West giving a history of fair housing and telling how race was even written into FHA underwriting guidelines, how licensees would block-bust and steer, and even how in California, Proposition 14 was passed with a 65% vote in favor to overturn the Rumsford Fair Housing law in 1964. Sadly, some advocates of Prop 14 were licensees invoking private property rights. The Supreme Court overturned Prop 14 in 1966. It would be another 2 years before the Fair Housing Act would become the law of the land.
I am white. My wife is of Korean descent, so our children are bi-racial. My older brother’s children are ethnically Dominican and Guyanese. I can’t imagine anyone looking at use sideways in this day and age, yet there was a time when we could have been discriminated against, simply because of family members who looked different.
Willie Mays, one of the greatest baseball players ever, had a rough time buying his home when the New York Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958.
Yankee great Mariano Rivera walked out of a real estate office in the 1990’s when a really stupid agent who didn’t know who he was judged him by his appearance. Anyone who heard this story is amazed.
We should take this time to re-dedicate ourselves to equality in housing, fairness in our industry, and the incredibly important role we as licensees play in the observance of what is actually, in context, a new idea.