Renee Mathys Pinho
April 26, 2023
In honor of Fair Housing Month, we’re talking with Ivonne Furneaux, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Anywhere, about how Anywhere is committed to building inclusive communities that fuel economic growth and prosperity.
Fifty-five years ago, the Fair Housing Act was passed and codified into law, making it illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on race, color, religion, or national origin. This law was a significant step forward in the fight for equal housing and has been followed by numerous efforts to expand and strengthen Fair Housing protections. In 1988, amendments to the law were passed that added protections for people with disabilities and families with children. Additionally, every state in the US and most cities have implemented their own Fair Housing laws that in many respects extend beyond federal protections.
Still, there is much more work to be done to provide equitable access to housing for all. We all can be part of the solution, affirming we are working to build thriving, inclusive communities. Today and every day, we should discuss the key components of Fair Housing, and how we can all do our part.
A Snapshot of Homebuying in America
While statistics can't tell the entire story, they can give us a small snapshot of the realities that specific communities face in securing the dream of homeownership.
Fair Housing in 2023
Ivonne outlines actions we can all take to help create a more equitable real estate industry.
Q: What are some of the Fair Housing issues you’re focusing on right now?
There are so many issues to tackle when it comes to Fair Housing. The homeownership gap between Black and white Americans is as large as it was at the time the Fair Housing Act was passed. Black Americans face appraisal bias and are denied mortgage loans at higher rates. LGBTQ+ homebuyers still face discrimination. We also have related issues such as inventory shortages and affordability that contribute to homeownership disparities. As much as we would love to tackle and fix all of these issues, it’s important to remember what is or isn’t within our power to influence.
We believe that one of the best ways to serve a diverse array of consumers is to have a diverse array of people serving them. So, we focus with intention on increasing the diversity of our employees, affiliated agents, and franchisees in our network. From culture and age to language and education, our collective differences – and similarities – make us stronger and enable us to drive our business forward. We do this through our hiring practices as well as through offerings like our Inclusive Ownership Program, which provides financial incentives to Veterans, women, LGBTQ+ and brokers of color who start a franchise with one of our outstanding brands. We also focus on partnership and education to help employees and real estate professionals understand the importance of Fair Housing.
Q: What are the roles of our brokers and agents in helping to uphold the values of Fair Housing in their day-to-day work?
Real estate brokers and agents have a responsibility not only to abide by Fair Housing laws, including not engaging in practices like steering, but also to treat all their clients with dignity and respect. It really is that simple. Everyone deserves a place to call home, and it’s our privilege to help people achieve that dream. Brokers and agents can also help uphold the values of Fair Housing by demonstrating courage and serving as advocates for their clients who may be experiencing bias. Challenge the builder who refuses to sell to a gay couple, challenge the lender who requires more proof and paperwork for clients of color, challenge the fellow agent who makes assumptions about clients. Courage is the only way we can make change, and we’re called upon to advocate for that change – one client at a time.
Q: Staying educated on the topic of Fair Housing and keeping oneself accountable is so important as a real estate professional. Can you share any resources or ways that one can stay informed with the latest data?
I believe everyone has a responsibility to learn the history of Fair Housing and understand the barriers that some home buyers and sellers continue to face today. One of my favorite resources is ‘Segregated by Design,’ which distills hundreds of years of discrimination and policy into an eye opening, yet easy-to-understand animated short film. I highly recommend it for anyone, not only those in the industry. The film is based on the book The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, which is another great resource.
For real estate professionals, the annual reports published by organizations like NAHREP, NAREB, AREAA and the Alliance are critical to understanding not only the data but also the lived experiences of communities that historically have been excluded from the industry. Lastly, Anywhere offers a virtual Fair Housing training course across all our brands free of charge.