Earlier this month, Chicago Association of Realtors CEO Michelle Mills Clement told Chicago Agent magazine that the association’s leadership team would soon meet to discuss not only the controversy surrounding the use of the word “master” to describe bedrooms and bathrooms in real estate listings, but also the organization’s larger position on racism in the industry. Today, the board of directors, lead by Clement as well as President Maurice Hampton, President-Elect Nykea Pippion McGriff, Treasurer Antje Gehrken, Immediate Past President Tommy Choi and Director Marty Walsh, issued a statement on these topics.
The statement began with an acknowledgment that ending the usage of the word “master” in property descriptions is easy, but that more work remains. “There is no downside to removing a word from real estate vernacular that carries an uncomfortable and racist undertone,” the statement read. “However, focusing on one term is a distraction from the larger and very real issues around race.”
The association went on to say that among those very real issues are the policies of the Trump administration and the language used by the president himself. In particular, the leadership team slammed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s decision this week to repeal the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule in a way that went significantly farther than the National Association of Realtors’ statement on the move.
“Communities receiving federal dollars were required to take steps to actively promote integration in communities. Now, they’re not,” CAR’s statement read. “We must actively work to identify and dismantle segregationist and racist patterns in housing. Abolishing this rule washes the government’s hands of responsibility to deconstruct what they helped build and ignores the systemic racism in housing opportunity that has ensured Chicago remains one of the most segregated cities in the United States.”
Turning to President Donald Trump, the association quoted his tweet announcing the repeal, which said in part, “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood!”
The statement asked members to examine the president’s words closely. “Take another look at our president’s tweet. Those powerful words are evidence that changing one word won’t solve the systemic issues in our industry — there is real work to be done, and we can’t do it by ourselves,” the statement read. “Those words are a perfect example of how racism and discrimination flourish. Racism is not just a personal issue. Racism is structural and institutionalized.”
As for solutions, the association outlined several action items for the industry and individual members:
- Report fair housing violations: “We know these are still happening – we hear from many of you that this is a constant challenge, but unless you report specific violations when they occur, our hands are tied. Help us hold each other accountable.”
- Promote Black leaders: “There is a startling lack of Black managing brokers and a lack of Black representation in brokerage leadership where Blacks aren’t broker owners.”
- Encourage diversity of all kinds among the ranks. “Take a look at your staff and teams. As you’re growing, are you making an effort to diversify your circle? … Volunteer to mentor someone who may not look like you. Hire an assistant or partner who can broaden your circle.”
- Expand training efforts: “Ask every brokerage to mandate unconscious bias training. Unconscious bias is a cancer that is rampant in our society and our industry — training to recognize those biases and actively dismantle and work through them is critical.”
- Understand the roots of inequality in housing: “In Black communities, properties are undervalued and overtaxed — and research has shown this is deliberate (a great resource on this is the book, ”Color of Law,” by Richard Rothstein). We must tackle the subjectivity and inequality in our current systems that make private property an inadequate vehicle for building Black wealth and equity.”