Opening Acts: October 23, 2020

Can We Eradicate Racism in Residential Real Estate?


Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) released the first in a series of short policy papers that are aimed at addressing this issue of systemic racism in the real estate industry. This policy paper, entitled “Ending Racism in Residential Real Estate,” discusses the role that the real estate industry played in creating residential racial segregation in our metropolitan areas. The paper also cites the 2019 “Long Island Divided” investigation completed by Newsday as evidence of widespread and continuing racial discrimination in the real estate sales market. 

The authors, Fred Freiberg, Britny McKenzie, and Craig Waletzko, argue that policy responses to this discrimination often fail to create the desired change. Enhanced fair housing training and better supervision of agents, while helpful, will not change the culture of the real estate industry or eliminate systemic discrimination. Real estate firms need to examine their own systems, policies, and structures to ensure that they are not treating populations or communities differently based on race or perpetuating segregation. The authors also point out that “a facially neutral policy driven by economic data or algorithms that are void of any intent to discriminate can still have a racially disparate impact and violate fair housing laws.”

This paper stresses that all of us have a responsibility to report pernicious policies and practices that discriminate against people based on race to treat communities differently based on their racial make-up. The full paper can be read at http://bit.ly/FHJCPolicyPaper10232020.

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.