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Opinion: 54 years after the Fair Housing Act challenges remain, but there are solutions

Empower new industry faces and embrace tech and disruption

As we end Black History Month, there’s a message we, as Black real estate agents, want to make clear. Around this same time each year, we ask ourselves, “Have we made any strides in adhering to the Fair Housing Act?” This 1968 federal law prohibits discrimination around the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, handicap and family status.

The answer? It’s complicated.

Throughout American history up to now, we see a pattern of continued, systemic racial discrimination. All too often, we’re reminded about how deeply ingrained discrimination is in our society with events like the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which led to heightened demands for justice and equality.

In parallel, a wide racial homeownership gap continues in America. According to a study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, “After declining for much of the past 20 years, the national Black homeownership rate has persisted at 42% between 2016–2018, as low as it was in 1970, while the rate of white homeownership increased to 73% in 2019, a record high.

We believe there are several solutions:

Empower the new faces of the industry. We call it the “We Strategy.” In other words, “we” become the bank, lender, appraiser, title company, construction company, landlords, property managers, developers, real estate agents and brokers and so on. When you have new faces of power, real change happens. That’s why we’re advocates for education, training professionals and putting people in positions of power. If we can have a seat at the table, we can make decisions that deliver a positive impact for our communities.

Embrace technology and disruption. The emergence of the metaverse helps reduce discriminatory practices. By using avatars and operating in a virtual world, it levels the playing field and promotes everyone equally. Unfortunately, biases still exist, but through a virtual environment, a more inclusive world opens up. Through our avatars, there is more ease in engaging, which reduces anxieties and assumptions.  By having this choice, we can affect how we are “seen.”
Virtual brokerages like eXp Realty are disrupting the status quo of big-box, brick-and-mortar models. We are leveraging a technology platform, which offers equal access and the same package for all agents. There’s no nepotism, or “back-door deals” given to star agents. There are no franchises or territories; you can grow where you want to grow – domestically and internationally.  Every agent is equal.

Democratize currency. Through blockchain technology, tokens and NFTs, we can buy and sell in these virtual spaces more easily than using the traditional route of lenders and banks. Blockchain technology opens up opportunities because it is a “trustless system,” which means it’s a one-to-one transaction and is not dependent on a third party (i.e., bank or lender) to broker the deal. Third parties introduce the potential to face assumptions based on your race, ZIP code and, in turn, be offered less attractive loan terms. Cryptocurrency is the way of the future.

Through each of these three avenues, we feel we can empower more Black people and other underrepresented groups to become homeowners. We must be self-reliant out of necessity, because the old way of resolving issues through laws and the government is not working. It’s too slow, too political, too bureaucratic and no one is held accountable. You can’t legislate morality. Change is in our hands and it’s happening fast. We are excited!

Fee Gentry is an eXp Realty agent based in Austin, Texas. She is the nation’s first Black woman to sit on the Board of Directors for a publicly-traded real estate company, eXp World Holdings, and is the co-founder of ONE eXp and the Black eXp Network.

Melanie Thomas is an eXp Realty agent based in Orlando, Florida. She is Chief Operating Officer of the Black eXp Network.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of RealTrends’ editorial department and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Fee Gentry at fee@feegentry.com

Melanie Thomas at melanie@orlandodreambuilders.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tracey Velt at tvelt@realtrends.com

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