Stopping Racial Steering Begins with Real Estate Agents
The development of racially segregated neighborhoods has dated back to the beginning of American history. Most of the nation’s modern housing problems we see today are a result of biased zoning laws from the 1920s and ‘30s and the urban renewal laws of the ‘40s and ‘50s. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Movement that we began to see a change in how we approached community development.
Even with this new development, the laws changed but the demographics of these neighborhoods stayed the same. There are many sociological theories and federal laws that can somewhat explain why this happened. However, there is one main principle behavior that explains part of this problem: racial steering.
What is Racial Steering?
The act of racial steering can be defined as “the practice in which real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race.” This heinous behavior deals with suggesting or pushing clients towards a specific neighborhood or failing to provide vital information and details about a home, all because of a client’s racial features and background.
While there are many laws and Supreme Court decisions that support the abolition of this practice, it’s still a systemic issue plaguing many real estate transactions every year. Just a few years ago, this investigative crew went undercover in Long Island and discovered just how alive and well racial steering is in the Empire State. With laws in place to prevent such actions, it is up to real estate agents like yourself to stop this act and speak up.
When Was Racial Steering Made Illegal?
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 “prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. It also requires that all federal programs relating to housing and urban development be administered in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this law into place during the King assassination riots, and it was crucial for increasing federal funding and limiting further hate crimes. It fully established that you cannot discriminate housing against anyone based on their race, color, religion, or national origin. This includes the act of racial steering. However, due to sociopolitical and cultural reasons, there was a need for several more laws and Supreme Court hearings surrounding the expulsion of racial steering from real estate.
How Can Real Estate Agents Stop Racial Steering?
There are many ways to stop racial steering within your and fellow agents’ practices. Using common sense and acting upon human decency is the first step. Here are some other ways you can help eliminate racial steering from the real estate industry:
Treat Everyone with Decency and Respect
A good rule of thumb when creating a hospitable and fair environment for clients is to approach everyone the same. We’re all human and should be treated with the same rights and respect regardless of the color of your skin.
Find Homes Based on Wants and Needs
When helping a client find a home, show them homes that meet what they want and need. By simply touring homes in neighborhoods with people of the same background or skin tone as your clients, you are not acting on their best interests.
Become Educated on the Matter
Whether it’s with our Continuing Education curriculum or somewhere else, taking courses on racial steering and Fair Housing laws will help you become more knowledgeable about what is appropriate and what isn’t.
Practice What You Preach
Talk is cheap. Only you as an agent can follow these ethical guidelines and support your clients the best you can as their real estate agent. By practicing what you preach, you set a precedence for your colleagues and future agents.
See Something, Say Something
If you see or know a fellow colleague is engaging in racial steering, you have an ethical obligation to report their behavior. By reporting on these malicious actions, you too can help bridge the gap for equality in real estate.
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