2022 Poster Contest Winner, Bayalyn Stack’s Poster: Neighborhoods Are for Everyone

Author: Shyle Ruder, FHCO’s Director of Education & Outreach

Neighborhoods Are for Everyone.

At the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, we know this to be true. We embody this belief through our education and outreach efforts. Through our work we reach every corner of the state. We understand education is a powerful tool in cultivating housing justice, equity, and inclusion.

In an article, Benefits for All: Why Diverse Communities are the Way Forward, For Everyone by Kayla Hui, the author notes, “Diverse neighborhoods are associated with stronger economic indicators, including increased job opportunities and higher levels of homeownership. By contrast, housing discrimination and segregation hamper economic growth for everyone.”

One of the most important tools to build economic opportunity and generational wealth is access to homeownership. However, we know that not all groups of Oregonians have had equal access to homeownership. We see large disparities in homeownership between white people and people of color.

We are aware of current practices that continue to block equal access to homeownership and wealth accrual as evidenced by the story of Carlette Duffy who was forced to conceal her race as a means to receive a fair real estate appraisal. When she did so, her home appraised for nearly $150,000 more than the previous two appraisals.

In Florida, the Hortons, a mixed-race couple, also experienced discrimination in the home appraisal process. Their first appraisal came in surprisingly low. Abena, who is Black, and Alex, who is white, decided to order a second appraisal and remove anything from the home that indicated Abena and her son might live in the home. Abena took their son to the store while Alex stayed in the home to greet the appraiser. The second appraisal came in 40% higher than the first.

While housing discrimination in the appraisal process is in the national news, we know that housing discrimination is happening in all stages of the homebuying process. FHCO is engaging in efforts to actively combat housing discrimination in homebuying. FHCO recently held four focus groups to get a better sense of housing discrimination as witnessed by real estate professionals, social service organizations, and housing consumers. We ran a focus group for consumers in English and in Spanish.

Directing Our Focus Based on Community Feedback

In the consumer listening sessions, we learned housing consumers don’t understand their fair housing rights or where to report housing discrimination when it happens. For homebuyers who speak languages other than English information about the homebuying process, the housing market, and paperwork related to housing transactions and loans are only provided in English. Translation services are not provided for conversations with real estate agents, banks, or lenders. This is a significant barrier to equal housing opportunity.

During the sessions we also heard that oftentimes people of color, specifically Black and Latinx homebuyers, experience differential treatment or discrimination by some real estate professionals, banks, and lenders. Some examples include extended wait times for loan applications, being asked to re-submit paperwork to lenders due to discriminatory assumptions, being steered away from homes by selling agents, being treated differently when their white spouse joined in-person conversations with lenders and HOAs.     

In discussions with social service agencies, we heard that Latinx homebuyers are more likely to be shown homes only within certain zip codes. This is called steering and is a type of housing discrimination. They are also more likely to be shown homes of inadequate size and condition.

Some immigrants who do not qualify to buy homes will try to purchase homes in the name of their American born children. This harkens back to the time in Oregon’s history when Japanese immigrants were forced to do this as a result of the Alien Land Law and being blocked equal access to homeownership opportunities.

Victims of domestic violence may need to change their social security number or are unable to provide previous addresses, all as a means for safety as they are fleeing. As such, they lose their credit history and address history, which blocks them from equal housing choice.

Funding that has been released to social service agencies to offset the impacts of COVID-19 has opened opportunities for consumers to use these funds towards a down payment on a home, education, or a vehicle for employment or a business. Social service agencies note a decrease in the number of people accessing these funds for down payments due to the increased prices of homes.

And in a focus group specifically for real estate professionals, we discovered that homebuyers experience discrimination due to their name that may reveal race or national origin or due to a common question asked by a selling agent, “tell me about your buyer.” Ultimately, any answer to this question will reveal protected class status and may lead to discrimination on the seller’s part. Real estate professionals explained that they experience discrimination if they are a real estate broker of color. Many real estate brokers choose to leave their photos off their marketing materials or have a white colleague show homes due to discrimination that can ultimately impact their client.

From these groups we learned the biggest barriers to reporting discrimination in the homebuying process are people not knowing:

  1. their fair housing rights;
  2. what to do if they experience housing discrimination;
  3. where to report housing discrimination.

Combatting Discrimination in Homebuying

To combat housing discrimination in homebuying FHCO has partnered with the Oregon REALTORS® to offer education to REALTORS® statewide. Recently FHCO participated in Oregon REALTORS® and Oregon Mortgage Bankers Association (OMBA) first ever Fair Housing Summit which attracted over 200 real estate professionals.

The session was facilitated by industry professionals that are dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the keynote speaker was Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law. FHCO presented directly after Rothstein to discuss what housing discrimination looks like locally and what REALTORS® can do to support fair housing efforts. 

Prevention Through Education & Outreach

Over the next year, FHCO’s Education and Outreach team will:

  • develop an outreach plan to reach those experiencing discrimination in homebuying;
  • create a “Know Your Rights” guidebook for homebuyers as well as additional educational materials that are accessible in multiple languages;
  • offer trainings directly to homebuyers, social service agencies, real estate brokers, and HOAs;
  • continue our valuable partnership with Oregon REALTORS® who is involved with creating equitable housing opportunities across Oregon.

We believe that an ounce of prevention that is provided through education and outreach, is worth a pound of cure.