One of the first official actions Charlie Oppler took as the 2021 president of the National Association of Realtors was to issue a formal apology for the group’s contributions to racial segregation and inequality.
Oppler, CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, offered the statement during a virtual fair housing summit Thursday hosted by The Hill and co-sponsored by NAR.
“What Realtors did was an outrage to our morals and our ideals. It was a betrayal of our commitment to fairness and equality. I’m here today, as the President of the National Association of Realtors, to say that we were wrong,” Oppler said. “We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye. And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what Realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”
NAR initially opposed passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, and at one time allowed the exclusion of members based on race or sex. This discrimination was part of a systematic policy of residential racial segregation, led by the federal government and supported by America’s banking system and real estate industry, and driven by practices like redlining.
By denying Black Americans and other minorities access to homebuying in many suburbs and cities in the immediate post-war years, redlining and other discriminatory practices helped build a staggering wealth gap between white Americans and all other racial minorities. To address this, NAR and members of the housing finance industry argue down payment assistance must be expanded and more housing must be produced, among other initiatives.
“Because of our past mistakes, the real estate industry has a special role to play in the fight for fair housing,” Oppler said.
Fair housing advocates argue members of the real estate industry – although not necessarily members of Realtor organizations – continue to discriminate against people of color, particularly in the rental housing market. In response, NAR recently launched a plan to boost new fair housing trainings for members and increase its role in advocating for more equitable housing.