On the day we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, I am thinking about Fair Housing as it relates to my practice of real estate services in Western Washington. I have been fortunate to say that I have not seen examples of racism or discrimination in my decade or so of listing and selling homes in Olympia and the surrounding communities, The closest encounter I have had with it (racism) was a prospective seller telling me that we needed to price her rental property higher because buyers would “jew her down” on a final price. I declined to do business with her and we parted company.
I recently took a six hour continuing education class on the topic of fair housing. As most of us know, unfair housing practices are illegal, unethical and bad business. Discrimination is not only about race. Discrimination can be about about religion, sexual preference, family status, and now – in Washington – weight. One cannot discriminate against the obese. It is my understanding that ours is the only state to address this.
In the past, areas were “redlined” so that black buyers, for example, could not purchase homes there. This was done by not only agents, but lenders as well. Some communities actually made their discrimination very clear, by stating it in neighborhood CCRs. Fair housing legislation in the early 1960s made all of this illegal.
More subtle types of discrimination have continued, however. Some agents have shown homes to clients in areas where they project that they may feel comfortable. In other words, where the agent thinks there is already a community of “similar people”. This is an unfair housing practice.
We’ve come a long way as a nation and as a profession. We need to continue to make progress as a collective and as individuals.