By Joey Henderson
Under the banner of the Real Estate for All Alliance (REFAA), the diversity partnership between Greater Tampa REALTORS® (GTR) and the six real estate specialty groups in the Tampa Bay area, is proud to have hosted its inaugural black history month event, Overcoming the Past to Celebrate the Future. The insightful conversation was hosted in partnership with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers Tampa chapter (the Bay Area Association of Realtist or NAREB) and sponsored by GTE Financial.
2021 GTR President Ellie Lambert welcomed the viewers and was encouraged by their support. She took time to introduce each REFAA partner and stated “We look forward to hosting more of these enlightening conversations with our other REFAA partners to help us learn and grow as individuals and become even more successful as REALTORS®” as a result.
The moderator for the session was 2021 President-elect Ruth Bryson. Bryson has achieved many milestones throughout her life, as a veteran Army lieutenant colonel, and as a REALTOR® leader. The most recent achievement for Bryson in the real estate industry is becoming GTR’s first African American female president elect.
Bryson welcomed the viewers to the forum and explained that the conversation will “explore the challenges that have plagued fair housing & homebuyer equity,” and how they will “learn about the gains, setbacks, solutions and resources to help us move forward.”
Bryson introduced the local NAREB President Travis Brooks as the guest speaker. Brooks, a native Floridian, has been a REALTOR® since 2005. He was an inaugural member of USF football team in 1996, but with injuries cutting his football career short, his education contributed to the eventual development of his company, the Realty Brooks Team. Well-traveled and a sought-out speaker among the lending institutions on the topic of diversity, fair housing and equity and providing strategies for companies to develop policies to truly improve lending practices for all, Travis “strives to constantly educate himself on the ever-changing real estate market to ensure he is able to deliver the most accurate and up to date information to his clients and agents.”
Brooks provided a history about NAREB and pointed out that the organization had its humble beginnings in Tampa, Florida in 1964. He noted that NAREB is the oldest African American trade association in the country and their motto is “democracy in housing,” and their mission is to be an advocate for the minority real estate professional and consumers. NAREB members refer to themselves as “Realtist” since African Americans real estate agents were not permitted to join the National Association of REALTORS®.
In bringing understanding of the racial divide related to home ownership, Brooks stated that while the New Deal1 of 1933 was effective in establishing the thirty-year mortgage and fixed low interest rates, 98% of those loans went to white Americans within a five-year period of the program. He spoke of the nuances about red lining whereby in the 1930s “maps drawn by the federal Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) colorcoded neighborhoods in 239 cities in the 1930s.”2 Travis outlined how the color green was the designated color for “best,” blue for “still desirable,” yellow for “declining,” and red for “high risk and uninsurable.” Lenders used these maps to deny mortgages to entire neighborhoods, considered them a credit risk and subjected them to stricter mortgage terms based on their racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
It was not until 1968, the Fair Housing Act was passed and outlawed redlining and housing discrimination, but Brooks stated, “by that time, we had already suffered 30 plus years of racial inequality, housing disparity and housing discrimination.” Brooks asserts that it is a known fact homeownership is a pathway to wealth, and because of the inability to purchase homes and land, it comes as “no surprise for the wealth-gap” that exists today.
Bryson asked Brooks to elaborate on the Black homeownership rate which she researched and found it was 47% in 2021. Brooks elaborated that the third quarter of 2020 is when the 47% was reached, but due to the pandemic all racial groups experienced a drop in home ownership, but the Black community dropped to 44% in the fourth quarter, according to the US Census. However, he goes on to say that the U.S. is still dealing with the same issues today as when the Fair Housing Laws were passed in 1968 when Black homeownership was at 42%. Ownership peaked at 49% in 2004 during the big housing boom, which included subprime and predatory lending that targeted many African Americans seeking home mortgages. “When we went through the housing crisis of 2008, we suffered the most…, because we had more of the bad mortgage products than any other group, which is the reason it is taking us longer to recover,” Brooks said.
In discussing resolutions to improve the condition, Brooks stated that because policies were intentionally put in place to create the disparities, it must be intentional in resolving the dilemma. He recommended viewers visit NAREB.com to read the State of Housing in Black America Report3 (SHIBA), which identifies several points of intentional policy measures to help improve the disparity in housing. In addition to proposing revamping and enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and reduction of the mortgage insurance on the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, Brooks said that increasing diversity in real estate and mortgage lending industries are also among the needed strategies outlined in the SHIBA Report.
In concluding the conversation, Ruth Bryson advised all REALTORS®, who seek better understanding on “what not to do” when it comes to discrimination, to watch the Newsday expose’, Long Island Divided, which was a three-year investigation that “uncovered widespread evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents on Long Island.” After watching the video, Bryson also encouraged members to act on NAR President Charlie Oppler’s call to action4 to take the Fair Housing Challenge to Stand Up for Racial Equity. The Fairhaven Fair Housing5 challenge was issued to REALTOR® leaders of committees, liaisons, RVPS, executives and board members.
“When one group is not doing well, it holds the rest of us back…, we as REALTORS® are the gate keepers. We need to make sure that there is diversity and equity in housing; in everything for all,” Ruth Bryson commented.
To watch the Overcoming the Past to Celebrate the Future in its entirety, visit our YouTube channel @TampaREALTORS and search for the title. For more information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- How a New Deal Housing Program Enforced Segregation – HISTORY Redlining References:
- Home Owners’ Loan Corporation – Wikipedia Mobilizing for Housing Equality, REALTOR® AE Magazine, Fall 2020
- Shiba Report – National Association of Real Estate Brokers (Nareb.Com)
- Charlie Oppler Announces the Fair Housing Challenge on Vimeo
- Welcome to Fairhaven: Promoting Fair Housing (Nar.Realtor)
Joey Henderson is the Director of Public Affairs at Greater Tampa REALTORS®.