By Tracey Royal, President, Women’s Council of Realtors, Illinois
Affordable housing is such a broad topic that has many challenges within the real estate industry. My purpose as a Realtor was redefined when I had the pleasure of serving as the 2020 chair for the Affordable Housing Committee for Illinois Realtors. Many people have negative perceptions related to affordable housing; however, my goal was to determine why and create a new narrative that the Realtor community could embrace to be more proactive and intentional about creating pathways to homeownership for all.
I sought the guidance of Athena Williams, executive director of the Oak Park Housing Authority, a HUD-approved housing counseling agency that provides a variety of free resources, including homebuyer education, financial empowerment, homeownership preservation, foreclosure prevention, down payment assistance, expanded rental options and so much more. She helped me understand that the term “affordable housing” is often inaccurately used interchangeably with “housing subsidies.” But a consumer’s inability to pay is distinctly different from what are often considered barriers to homeownership. Housing subsidies are government-sponsored economic assistance programs designed to alleviate housing costs for low- to moderate-income levels. Barriers to homeownership are systemic improprieties that create obstacles to prevent consumers from becoming homeowners. I felt that in order to change the narrative, Realtors needed to take a boots-on-the-ground approach and become ambassadors within the real estate industry by becoming more knowledgeable about grant programs for first-time homeowners to help with down payment and closing costs. I also encourage Realtors to collaborate with their local HUD counseling agencies within their communities to be a trusted source of the source.
The State of Housing in Black America (SHIBA) Report, produced by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the oldest minority trade association in the country, stated that there is a disparity in housing among Black, Hispanic and white Americans. The report showed that in 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported homeownership rates of 42.1% for Black households, 47.5% for Latino households and 74.3% for white households. It is our responsibility to go deeper when guiding our clientele through the homebuying process. Part of that responsibility means being intentional about our partnerships we build in the marketplace, where we can ethically promote products and services toward a pathway to success for those who desire homeownership.
In my current role as assistant branch vice president for Coldwell Banker Realty, I lead by encouraging my agents to demonstrate their value as Realtors by taking a holistic approach to providing service to their clients. I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as Realtors to promote resources for consumers that create pathways toward building wealth through homeownership.