A half-century ago, the Fair Housing Act was enacted to prohibit
discrimination in housing based on race, color, creed and national origin. The
law also supported NAREB's efforts toincrease Black homeownership which we
believe serves to increase wealth and other economic outcomes for Black
We have since experienced highs and lows in the journey towards
economic empowerment and Black homeownership. While sometimes challenged, we
are not discouraged. And, we have learned vital lessons along the way.
The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) has
advocated for Black Americans to own their homes since 1947, and we are proud
to play a leadership role in that struggle. But this is not a solitary
endeavor. We must grow a "Community of Concern" by partnering and
actively involving civil and human rights organizations, community-based and
social service organizations, business groups, and the faith-based
community-our oldest and most trusted institution. We must collaborate to
create strong, viable communities that help to stabilize Black Americans and
their families through homeownership.
In 1970, two years after the passage of The Fair Housing Act,
Black homeownership was 41.6 percent. It reached its height in 2004 at 49
percent. Today, Black homeownership stands at 42.1 percent, almost the same as
nearly 50 years ago. The economic downturn of a decade ago hurt many Black
homeowners with high foreclosures, upside-down mortgages, and financial
upheaval from which many are still struggling to recover.
Today, economic segregation remains a problem. Urban centers,
long the home of Black Americans, are being gentrified. Many with deep
community roots are being forced out by rising taxes and skyrocketing housing
While obvious obstacles like Jim Crow segregation no longer
exist, we still face formidable obstacles to owning homes. Obstacles like
credit scoring, which is based not on how diligently we pay our bills, but on
how much consumer debt we can amass. Obstacles like crippling student debt,
which impacts Black Americans deeply. Obstacles like unfair mortgage lending
Despite these challenges, we know that wealth can be built
through education, through financial literacy, through creating and growing our
Community of Concern to support homeownership. This is how Black America
educates its children and how we set up businesses-by using equity from our
homes to invest in ourselves, our families and our futures.
We stand on the shoulders of NAREB founders and visionaries like
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who spoke to NAREB in 1967 about the need for
"middle-class Negroes to ... publicly identify with the problem of poverty
which engulfs the life of the masses."
NAREB's motto is "Democracy in Housing," and we will
continue to fight for that. We must continue to be vigilant. We must continue
to EDUCATE Black Americans, to ENCOURAGE Black Americans, and do everything we
can to EMPOWER Black Americans to build wealth, to build stability, and to
invest in our futures through that most fundamental part of the American Dream:
Jeffrey W. Hicks is the 30th
president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers.