Minneapolis Area Realtors (MAR) held a press conference Thursday, Oct. 13 to apologize for the organization’s history of racial discrimination in real estate sales.
“Our apology and efforts to engage in policy change are overdue and are important steps for us because of the deep and lasting impact our actions have had on people of color in Minnesota, especially Black Minnesotans,” Denise Mazone, MAR’s first Black president, said in a press release.
In its 135-year history, MAR engaged in redlining and racial covenants that prevented Black people from purchasing property in certain neighborhoods and did not initially allow Black realtors to join MAR. Jackie Berry, who is on the MAR board of directors and MAR’s inclusion committee, commented that these practices helped shape Minnesota into the state with the worst racial homeownership gap.
About 75% of White people in Minnesota own their home, compared to only about 25% of Blacks, a figure that has fallen from 46% in the 1950s.
“As a realtor and real estate instructor,” Berry said, “I have seen firsthand the lack of awareness around the tremendous housing disparities that exist today, and I strongly believe that education is a crucial piece of the solution,”
“If you look at some of the appraisals that have been done in homeownership and the disparity there—having to prepare homeowners of color to potentially take down their own family pictures, make changes in their home so that they have a fair appraisal coming through— can you imagine having to do that to your own home?” Berry said. “To go through and make changes just so that you get the same chance at value as others have had?”
Racial discrimination in housing is illegal, but it still happens today. Effects from widespread racial discrimination of the past still negatively affect Black families, since owning a home as an effective way to build wealth was denied to many Black families in the past. Neighborhoods that had racial covenants in the past presently have some of the highest property values in local markets.
“We also know that real estate is one of the biggest wealth-building opportunities there is,” Mazone said. “By building barriers to it, we also build into the broader system of oppression of people of color.”
MAR committed to four corrective policy changes, which will all be initiated by the end of the year, to begin righting the wrongs of the past. MAR plans to change language in purchase agreements that was contributing to racial discrimination, expand education on racial homeownership gaps, add scholarships for BIPOC people looking to become realtors, and lobby the National Association of Realtors to support developing a federal grant for first-generation homebuyers.
MAR also plans to create more proposals to address racial discrimination in homeownership in the future. “The problem has accumulated over decades, over centuries of actions and inactions, and the changes will take many years,” Pat Paulson, MAR’s past president, said.
“We don’t have specific goals in numbers, but we’re likely to create those goals as we move forward in addition to policy recommendations.”
Cole Miska is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.