California Realtors apologize for role in racist housing


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Association of Realtors is apologizing for its role in promoting policies that led to racial segregation in the state, decades after the group put its money behind a proposal that overturned the state’s first fair housing law.

At a press conference on Friday, leaders of several real estate organizations spoke about their next steps, following the association’s apology last week. The group of real estate agents is now supporting a bill that overturn a law which makes it harder for the state to build affordable housing. The group partners with nonprofits focused on expanding homeownership among communities of color. He also lobbied for a law requiring implicit bias training for real estate agents.

“It’s been a very long time coming,” said Derrick Luckett, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. The association is committed to increasing the intergenerational wealth of black households.

The California Association of Realtors was one of many real estate groups that supported redlining, barriers to affordable housing projects, and other 20th century practices that led to more segregated cities across the United States.

During the 1930s, the federally backed Home Owners’ Loan Corporation created maps that classified parts of towns into categories based on their alleged credit worthiness. The practice, now known as redlining, has led to racial segregation and income inequality by preventing residents living in certain neighborhoods from receiving loans.

The California Association of Realtors, then known as the California Real Estate Association, funded a campaign to add an amendment to the state constitution in 1950 requiring the government to seek voter approval before spending money. public money in affordable housing. For the past few decades, the group has supported repeal of the amendment.

In 1964, the association put its money behind a proposal to strike down the Rumford Act, a law designed to protect people of color from discrimination when looking for housing.

In 2020, following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, which led to worldwide protests against racism and police brutality, the National Association of Realtors issued an apology for its role in discrimination in matters of of accommodation. Real estate groups in cities including Saint Louis and Minneapolis recently followed suit.

Otto Catrina, president of the California Association of Realtors, said Friday his apology followed those of the group’s former chairman in his magazine last year. But these excuses are more formal, since they went through the approval of the board of directors of the association.

“For many of our members, this apology reflects the organization we are today and we continue to work to foster inclusion and belonging for all of our members and communities,” Catrina said.

The National Association of Realtors reports that the homeownership rate for black Americans is 43% compared to 72% for white Americans. Black homeowners have also reported that their home’s appraisal value increases when they remove any sign of a black family living there.

Eli Knaap, associate director of the Center for Open Geographical Science at San Diego State University, said the apology comes as there is overwhelming evidence that the legacy of discriminatory housing policies is hampering the ability of families to create wealth.

“The greatest source of wealth for most families is in their home,” he said.

Knaap, who has studied the lasting impacts of practices such as redlining which has led to racial segregation, said some local governments are now implementing what is called inclusive zoning where part of the units in a development residential must be affordable for low-income residents.

In June, the California nation’s first the reparations task force released a comprehensive report who listed housing segregation as one of the many ills black Californians faced long after slavery was abolished. As the task force deliberates what form reparations might take, economists are scrambling to put a dollar figure on the lasting impacts of that damage.

The California Association of Realtors has not taken an official position on reparations but will consider policy recommendations made by the task force, Catrina said Friday.

Matt Lewis, spokesman for California housing advocacy group YIMBY, said it was important the realtors association was clear about what steps it would take to address the lingering effects of the discriminatory policies it supported. .

“Apologies are always backward looking, so it’s important to try to undo the damage you’ve done,” Lewis said. “But the next step is, so what are you going to do about it?”

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Sophie Austin is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/sophieadanna

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