Just Economy Conference – May 11, 2021
With a new administration in place, fair housing advocates must decide on their new priorities. What policies will they advocate for? What cases will they pursue? And in the midst of a pandemic, how will they achieve their goals?
The landscape of fair housing has changed drastically just in the past year. COVID-19 has hit communities of color especially hard. The economic cost of COVID-19 has exacerbated the segregation that was already rampant in America’s cities and suburbs, and its impact will remain even after the pandemic.
Nonprofits have been forced to find new ways to serve their communities. Outreach and education have become more difficult. Just staying afloat financially has become a struggle for many organizations. Our panelists will speak about how they are continuing their work and maintaining their focus.
Amidst the upheaval of COVID-19, there is a new landscape in the federal government, as well. With a new president and new Congressional leaders, many advocates are hoping for major action on issues like the foreclosure crisis, desegregation efforts and discriminatory algorithms used in mortgage lending. This session is an opportunity for advocates to share their ideas, and decide what will be on the top of their agendas.
- Jake Lilien, Attorney and Program Manger of Compliance, NCRC
- Stella Adams, Fair Housing Conference
- Morgan Williams, Attorney, Millenium Challenge Corporation
- Christopher Brancart, Attorney, Brancart & Brancart
- Bryan Greene, Vice President of Public Advocacy, National Association of Realtors
NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.
Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us, I apologize profusely for the delay. We have had some technical issues with this panel that we have not had with any other panel at this entire conference. But thanks so much for those of you who decided to wait it out. My name is Jake Lilian. I am an attorney here at NCRC. And I am the manager of NCRC compliance program. I am the organizer of the panel. And it is my pleasure to introduce our moderator, Stella Adams. Stella is a legend in the Fair Housing world. And she hired me here at NCRC, almost five years ago to the day when she was our chief of equity and inclusion. So thank you so much for joining us today. Stella, take it away.
Thank you so very much. Um, this is gonna be an amazing panel. I’m gonna let us get right to it. Um, we are going to hear from a young man with the National Fair Housing Alliance, Morgan Williams. And he’s going to really talk about the future of fair housing from a unique perspective and the perspective that we all have. And what’s life gonna look like? Post COVID and he has some insight says he wants to share with us not only about the vision of that future, but how we can engage in that future. And with that introduction, I’m going to ask Morgan Williams if he will speak and tell us and talk to us about his PC.
Thank you, Stella. And thank you, everyone, for sticking with us in regards to the technical issues. Obviously, we’re in the midst of the pandemic. And it has potentially changed with the prevalence and distribution of vaccines here in the US, but it will be with us for some time. And it’s this time, you know, been going on for over a year. And as we sit with how it has affected us and changed us as people. And as advocates, it’s helpful to potentially contemplate the way in which this change has presented an opportunity to expand fair housing advocacy. No doubt, the pandemic presents a different frame to pursue our advocacy. But the fights remain. And I’m just going to very briefly give, I think, a truncated time, a list for ways in which I think the pandemic has potentially changed perspectives in ways that we may want to try to seize upon. And the first is that with the essential worker, there is a greater appreciation of the low-income worker, there’s a lot of stereotypes that accompany poverty, and the pandemic has served to change some of those. And with that, there’s the potential for a shift in paradigm regards to the Housing Choice Voucher Program. From a from an operation of scarcity. There are long waitlists across regions to paradigm of universal access for any household that is eligible. And with that shift comes the need for corresponding source of income protections, and there is a current push at the federal level to advance national source of income protections. Unfortunately, it is a fraud issue. And its success depends upon the way that the infrastructure package moves forward. But on this issue, there’s still great opportunity for expanding state and local protections. And there’s great opportunity for HUD to exert its authority through guidance and enforcement. Secondly, with the devastation that COVID brought disproportionately to the black and Latino communities, there’s a greater understanding of the link between systemic racism and health disparities. And with that, there’s an opportunity for fair housing advocates to link community health assessments. And whatever planning process fair housing planning process emerges under the new assessment, assessment of fair housing afH regime. I will post just a link here to information on the CDC website about community health assessments. But we’re advancing the idea that communities should engage in these planning process with planning processes, which take place every three to five years, concurrent with their fair housing planning to understand and explore not only the depth to which systemic racism impacts health disparities and health disparities perpetuates systemic racism, but how to uncracked that problem at a local level. Third thing that has emerged from the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement in the course of the pandemic, is a greater understanding the link between the history of slavery and modern-day racial wealth and equity. This presents a greater opportunity for potential race-conscious housing programs. The small business administration’s regulatory screed scheme could be a model for such housing programs. And the first thing that that scheme is predicated upon is voluminous findings on the history of discrimination in the relevant industry, and continuing disparities. The assessment of fair housing process as it emerges, is that at the local level, and it presents an opportunity not only to identify priorities that can be used to counteract identified impediments to fair housing, but it can be used to establish the compelling interest needed to survive constitutional scrutiny of race-conscious housing programs and more can be done to link Affirmatively Furthering fair housing and the development of specifically tailored local housing programs. And the fourth thing I’ll briefly note is that the Black Lives Matter movement has entered the pandemic in the course of the recognition of broad racial discrimination and the effects of the pandemic has been Everyone so broadly understand systemic racism, an issue that we’ve been working on for the history of our movements, there’s a greater popular understanding of this. And with that, there’s a greater ability to apply that thinking to new innovations, including in the tech space. And we’re working to identify models that can be implemented to address that systemic racism. We’re working with federal regulators to harness that greater broader understanding of systemic racism, to ensure that they hold banks and other credit entities that are using AI in deploying their services, and building off of data that is bias and systems that are biased, to actually undo those systems and use AI to actually implement more equitable systems moving forward. And actually, federal regulators have a request for information on the use of AI, and their regulatory scope. That’s due on June 1. And we’re collaborating with our civil rights partners to coordinate a sign-on letter, so more information on that. But these are just some of the ways that pandemic has shifted our appreciation of systemic racism and deepened equity in a way that we could advance with the tools that we have within the Fair Housing movement. With that, still, I’ll turn it back to you.
Thank you so much for that, I very much appreciate it. And at this point in time, I’m gonna ask a man that needs no introduction. Chris Brancart, who is a very proficient and successful there hasn’t an attorney, and who, whose work goes is beyond repair, compare. So Chris, take it away and talk to us a little bit about what you see is our future.
Hi, I’m Chris Brancart. And thank you very much Stella. That was, that was a very nice introduction. And, and Morgan, thank you, because I think your approach looking at it in these new frames is, is helpful. And it’s thoughtful, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head is at work. I, when I was asked to think about this topic, I was sort of struck with a great ambivalence. And by that, I mean, I have great hope for our future. And I do believe that over time, because I was raised in an enlightenment Western tradition, that over time that we progress, and in that things do get better. But I also read a lot of history. And, and I also see, and I understand, and I appreciate that progress is not a straight line, though, we do hope it bends towards justice. But I am sort of struck, having worked in fair housing now for not quite three decades, and having worked close to the ground, worked, day in and day out on, on relatively small cases, invest investigating the meeting the people that are affected by discriminatory housing practices, I am a bit struck that I thought we would have made more progress by now. I thought we would have made more progress by now. I mean, I’m not saying that we were going to wake up, and it was going to be like the famous painting piece on earth and a lamb would lie down with the lion. But I am saying that I thought many of the systemic problems would be resolved that government, all units of government would be advocating for fair housing through the Affirmatively Furthering process or through the general plan process or, or through any number of governmental requirements that call upon government to, to advance for housing to increase opportunity. And I and I believed in that strongly because from a strictly economic point of view, or calling or a strictly republican or point of view, that one of the great strengths of the United States. One of the things that has allowed the United States to be so resilient over time, is that we’ve expanded opportunity More so than any other country in history, that we have broken down barriers and invited people to join the conversation and to join the economy. And because of that, we have rebounded from incredible missteps, such as the meltdown, the financial crisis in 2007 2008. But I am also, I am also a little bit chastened by the fact that, I look back at so many missed opportunities. And that, you know, this my adulthood, my full adulthood, you know, I think about the loss back in 2000, of gore being defeated by bush and what would have been both on the issues of climate and social justice. I look back after the years of President Obama who did not, perhaps push the agenda I was hoping that was going to be was going to be pressed. But did a did an incredibly good job. And then, of course, we see the last four years ending as it did and, and I am left with, with the feeling that I need to, I need to take some of the medicine that that that Morgan just just gave us, and to renew my optimism about the future. Because I am a bit struck, that we’re on a precipice that we yet we don’t yet know what to do. I do agree with Morgan, that the time is now that the wonderful thing about the pandemic is, and there’s nothing wonderful about disease and losing people. But the wonderful thing about the pandemic is that it it affected all of us, and therefore, it brought a sense of unity Now, unfortunately, because of the political leadership at the time, that that that effect was used, or they tried to use it to divide us. And that is, well, that is what it was. But But I do agree that that. And I also think that, you know, looking back in our recent past that, you know, we’ve made so many profound missteps, the notion that we were going to be upset about spending a trillion dollars to support people, because of the pandemic seemed to me to have no legs at all, because we had just spent $2 trillion blowing things up in Asia and Southeast Asia, to no good end. And, and so at least we’re focusing our resources on people that need it, and not to destructive purposes. So going back to the points that Morgan raised, I’m, I’m delighted to hear them, because I think they are the frames that we need to look at. But I also recognize that I’m not sure we’re ready. I’m not sure we’re prepared for what the new housing market looks like. And what we as your housing advocates need to do to, to ensure that there’s social justice in that housing market, just three examples to think about. One is last night, when I was so struck with my ambivalence, trying to think about what to say, I, I, when I oftentimes want to divert myself, I went on YouTube, and I listened to an old lecture and old interview of a, of a philosopher Quine, who I don’t understand, and I understand why he’s such a big deal, because I don’t understand him, because he is a big deal. But I went back and listen to him. And it was sort of so striking that, that in my lifetime, I now have access to all of this information, all of this data that I could never dream of when I was in college or in law school. At the same time, the ubiquity of digitized information has so changed the housing market, that we as for housing advocates, I don’t think have caught up, I don’t think that we have come to totally grasp what it means to think of the housing market, that we want to bring social justice to as an information market, then information market is now digitized, and once digitized, can be subject to all kinds of manipulation for good and bad. And it seems to me that what the first thing we have to do is since we’re on this precipice of this change in the housing market, is we have to figure out what exactly does Big Data mean in terms of the housing market and how the algorithms affect us. The second thing I was struck by, was, I have always lived in a world that that thing happened, I lived in a material world that was a materialist, maybe a positivist. And I actually went around the world and I wanted to meet people and talk with them about their experiences. But one of the things that so struck me over the last few years is that our consciousness, our sense of, of right and wrong, our sense of reality, has been so truncated and bounded by what we’re receiving from the internet or on screens, that I’m wondering if we’re missing the debate. We’re missing the debate, if we’re not actively engaged in actively engaged in promoting our mission, our view our agenda, on the internet, and social media platforms and things of that kind. And I would urge, I would urge everyone who’s involved in fair housing, to really think about that, in terms of what is our platforms look like? What do our platforms look like, and how well we groom them and maintain them. I know, Toledo has done a tremendous amount of great work in this area. I know that Moran has done some fantastic work in this area. But it’s something that struck me when I began to realize that lived reality was no longer the world that I grew up in, it was no longer a materialist world in which I’m in real. What did I say? The kids say? What do they say IRL, in real life, IRL, it wasn’t your IRL in terms of things and materialism and things that I walked through in time and space, but it became this manufactured reality that was being handed to me by the internet. For good, I get to listen to coin be interviewed last night, and for an hour and a half. I can’t say I learned much. But but also for for bad. Right. I mean, we’ve seen the manipulation, of course in the last four years. And then the last thing I would say that, about the frames that that gives me hope that Morgan touched on was the notion of recognizing connectivity between what we hope to accomplish is for housing advocates, and the other problems that confront so many people many times, in my work, just the nature of the work I do is, is as I said very close to the ground, and it deals relatively small cases, I am dealing with individuals that are confronted with confronted with immediate needs in the form of maintaining their housing, or the condition of their housing, or obtaining a loan or some permission from some institution. So they can go on improve their lives, whether it’s building affordable housing, or just getting a loan to, to buy a house. And and I’m very struck by the fact that when I approach problems, as someone who does for housing cases, I very much tend to be very siloed. And what I mean by that is, I look at it from the prism of will is there for housing case here, what’s the evidence and things of that kind. And I think that the point Morgan was raising, that was so powerful was I need to break out of that silo because my legalistic narrow view of the world does not resonate. It’s not resonating with people. It’s not resonating. What people want, when they contact me is solutions to the immediate needs. And those solutions are not going to be found always in the form of a court case, but rather in the work that Morgan was outlining, about working with agencies to connect, what are health disparities and housing and how is it that they affect each other? What does it mean, to regulate artificial intelligence, in terms of very simple rules that make up these algorithms that have such a profound disparate impact? We certainly saw the industry was very concerned about that. And it should give us cause to take a closer look, when you saw the work that came out of the Trump administration’s rewrite of the disparate impact rules. And so while I’m ambivalent about the future, and I sit here today, I didn’t think we’d be living like with the Jetsons, I didn’t think I’d have a power pack or something like that, or I’d have a microwave that you know, you put in a block and out came a steak or something like that, I did think that we would have made more progress. And I’m chasing by the fact that we haven’t. And I hope that looking at the points that the frames that Morgan has proposed that we approach this precipice we’re on this whole radical change that’s occurring in the housing market as we’ve moved to digitized information that’s transmitted not in real life, but rather through this, this medium of the internet, that I hope that we are Developing the tools and the strategies to address housing discrimination there so that when we meet five years from now, I won’t be here, but some other person will be. And they’ll say, Wow, we’ve accomplished a lot over the first administration, Biden administration and into the, into the Harris administration. So that’s all I have. And I appreciate being here. And I appreciate what Morgan said, I really much forward to what Mr. Green has say, and to learn more. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Chris, we appreciate you. And we appreciate you, bringing us into focus around what we need to what we have left to do. With that, I’m gonna introduce you to Brian Greene, who just won this fantastic award just the other day, like, top leader in housing for the whole country. So we’re pretty excited to have him with us today. I remember him when he was just a bush, intern. And then here he is Man of the Year, what can I say? We are so happy to have you with us, Bryan. And we were so eager to hear your vision.
Okay, well, no pressure, right. So thank you. And it’s great to follow. Chris Brancart and Morgan Williams. And they’re great ideas and framework for helping us look at the future of fair housing. I sort of want to lay out a framework that I think it’s time for us to prioritize. And that is, I see our focus now having to be advocating for more systemic changes, overall, that fair housing advocacy should focus more on systemic change, proactive engagement, and by proactive engagement, I mean, that government, like HUD and Department of Justice, take action, not just on the individual complaints, but identify outstanding discriminatory practices and proactively seek to address them, which means that they need to be funded to emphasize that kind of initiative. And then reparative justice, there is a great appetite in this country, to actually not only identify past harms, but to restore people for those past harms. We know who has been harmed we have among us today, if not the actual individuals who’ve been harmed been harmed by official discriminatory practices, the descendants who’ve been harmed and affected. And I think there’s, if not a broad consensus, certainly an emerging consensus, that it’s time to explore some of those options. So let me just talk about a few of these. And I see opportunities for us to address these things, from government, from advocacy and from industry. So in terms of systemic changes, of course, you know, individual complaints, filed with HUD and state and local agencies must be addressed. But we know that there’s so much discrimination that occurs in our country today, that individuals will never really be able to identify, I can say from the real estate industry perspective, that the testing that New York Newsday did, opened up eyes of many in the real estate industry as to practices that were occurring in sales and real estate sales, that they would not have otherwise known. I mean, unless they were engaging in them, but they would not have otherwise known because they did not see the two sides of the equation. And even people who might engage in some of these practices, if they’re, if they have implicit biases may not be aware that, you know, people are treating African Americans, Asians Hispanics one way and treating whites another way. And testing, of course, is the best evidence of that. You know, I think many in our industry have long supported fair housing and have advised consumers when they see discrimination to file a complaint, or when they experienced discrimination filed a complaint. But testing illustrates that individuals don’t know that they’re being discriminated against because they don’t have that privileged information. So it’s important that fair housing groups are actively doing testing and pursuing complaints based on that. And I would say HUD should be doing more testing HUD should be supporting testing, in support of investigations, and proactively working with fair housing groups to do testing for enforcement purposes. So we have a National Association of Realtors have been advocating increased budgets for HUDs enforcement work and for the private fair housing groups call in Congress right now. Cortez masto senator Cortez masto has a bill that would increase the funding. And we think that’s very important. And but we want to stress that that funding increase should support more testing and more proactive engagement. HUD has a systemic, Secretary initiated investigations office, we really think that office should be more active and taking a leadership role in identifying discriminatory practices. And addressing them. For example, there’s been a lot of news coverage about discrimination and appraisals. We think this is really significant, because you know, we all advocate more homeownership. But the concern we should all have is that people of color, buy homes, and then don’t realize the full benefit of it. If you have a home and your home is being devalued, either because of your race, or because of the racial composition of your community, you really are not getting the full American dream, you’re, you’re achieving a fraction of the American dream, or I don’t know, it’s not quite a dream. It’s like a groggy state. We want to be sure that there is no discrimination, ultimately, in homeownership, meaning that it when you go to refinance your home, or when you go to tap the equity in your home, that you achieve what you deserve. So this is a role for government to lean in and investigate these practices. It’s an opportunity to bring different entities together another role government can take sort of takes me to sort of proactive engagement, where government can convene real estate industry, the appraisal industry, the government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and say, we need to roll up our sleeves. You know, here’s an example where, you know, we have what a 45% homeownership rate among African Americans. The wealth may be there, but untapped because of devalued potential devalued appraisals. And so we should know, we should make sure that everyone who currently has a home game gaining the full benefit of that. So that’s something I think that would be really critical for government to engage in. In terms of other proactive engagement. You know, I think fair housing advocates have an opportunity to highlight and address institutional discrimination, institutional racism, all kinds of structural practices that are discriminatory for housing groups being in the community and working with communities on their furtively furthering fair housing obligations, I think, have a great opportunity today. Now that more and more Americans are unearthing the past of their communities. Just recently, we heard in Manhattan Beach, how the city or maybe it’s the county, Los Angeles County is actually returning to an African American family, a beach that the city had taken by eminent domain of Bruce’s beach in Manhattan Beach, and a few generations later, but the history was known. And you actually saw county officials acknowledge that what happened was wrong, although they didn’t officially apologize. They acknowledged and condemned the past practice, and said we are going to turn this land over to the family is perhaps more than I should do because the family lost the benefit of this land for about 100 years. But that said, communities are engaging in this kind of historical analysis, and probably for housing groups who are working with communities on Affirmatively Furthering fair housing, have an opportunity to help these communities see these examples. And I think they’re the most powerful examples to begin the analysis because a lot of people don’t otherwise appreciate the starting point. And I know from the National Association of Realtors, this is a conversation we have with some members. The president of National Association of Realtors last year apologized for the role of our association in creating and maintaining racial, racially restrictive covenants and redlining. And while overwhelmingly, our membership recognized that was important and supported that apology, we still have members who didn’t understand it and, you know, viewed the past as bad actors or, or the past is the past and not affecting today. And so there’s a lot of education, that still must be done. But to be able to point to specific acts, specific practices, specific stories, I think helps with that, with that conversation. There are private groups who are calling attention to the impact of racially restrictive covenants in their communities. I think that’s helpful. There’s the mapping prejudice project out of Minneapolis, there’s another one, also out of Minnesota called just deeds, that is showing the impact of those past, now unenforceable deeds on our communities today. So all of that history, I think, draws a clear line that people can understand, so that they, so as we talk about Affirmatively Furthering fair housing, they can appreciate, you know why it’s still necessary today, what the impact is, and I think because there is perhaps a minority, but a vocal minority of people who are pushing back who don’t understand the systemic nature of discrimination, and how it continues, despite changes in law, I think it’s important to tell those stories and to draw that line for people, especially if you’re trying to do advocacy and influence decision making at the local level. And along those same lines, I want to talk about reparative. Justice, in a sense, what I described with Manhattan Beach as an example, but there are cities, communities across the nation, really in the last couple of years, who are recognizing an opportunity to begin leveling the playing field by helping those families who were harmed by discriminatory practices over the past century. So one great example Evanston, Illinois, they decided that they were going to compensate families whose wealth descendents of families who were harmed by that city’s discriminatory practices, that city’s segregated practices, which limited African American families to a small triangular area of the city between 1919 and 1969. And, you know, I think this is perhaps a model for others to think about. It’s conservative, but at the same time, I think very logical that they recognize the city’s official actions to redline and to confine people to certain blocks based on race. And they said that, you know, during this period, we committed these actions. And anyone who is a descendant of anyone who was limited to those, to those blocks, now would be entitled to this new fund that they created using the tax taxes on marijuana sales. So a new fund, it wasn’t diverting money from existing city funds. But they said we’re creating a fund, and we’re going to give this to descendants. And this is an effort to acknowledge the harm that was caused. Now it’s very modest, but legally, I think they were very careful to create a program that could withstand challenge and so others may look to this and make it more bold, but recognize this can be done and may be appropriate in different cities. I know Asheville, North Carolina is looking at the impact of urban renewal on that community. And so as, as for housing advocates, and others do assessments of fair housing in a community, I think this is a very important part of the history where people, you know, saw the loss of their homes and businesses without due compensation. And of course, you know, this included infrastructural decisions to great NPR story just this past weekend, just about how all this played out in Los Angeles. So there’s an opportunity for, I think, a diverse set of actors to weigh in on all of these things, and identify how some of these systemic practices are still leaving many behind. And the need for us to look at our housing finance systems, for example, and how they may still disadvantage people, you know, what we may be overlooking, sometimes and how they disadvantage people. So I do think this is a great opportunity for us. As Chris said, unfortunately, I think COVID in a way, you know, it was necessary to highlight these things, which is that, but I think that’s going to be the nature of things that we are going to have these situations. And again, we’re going to discover how they disproportionately affect certain populations, because of our history. And so when those lessons are presented to us, we should follow up. So I want to thank you for your time. And I really appreciate being part of this August group.
Thank you so much, Bryan. And I just want to thank all of our time, our panelists who have done an extraordinary job. And then the next few minutes, I’m going to ask you some questions. And hopefully, we can generate a little conversation amongst ourselves. And then in the final 10 minutes, and we will answer questions from our audience. But the first question I want to pose to you is, um, how can we work together? across as civil rights and fair housing and community health advocates? How can we work together leverage and leverage our resources to attack fair housing issues?
Thank you. I would just I know, my colleagues on the panel will have thoughts, just two quick thoughts. I mean, I think it’s, it’s top-down and bottom-up. And at the federal level, there is a directive that has been given to HUD and federal agencies to account for the extent to which systemic racism has been perpetrated by the federal government, federal agencies, by agency by agency, and there needs to be coordination in that assessment. And I think there’s an opportunity for the CDC and Hud and other agencies that are involved in this engagement, to look at how to coordinate those planning processes moving forward. But then from the ground up. We all are the local leaders in our communities that can provide information to our cities, to our local housing departments that are charged with carrying out whatever fair housing planning unfolds in this new regime, and that leadership is something to bring in local health officials conversation, planning processes are coordinated.
And, Bryan, I’m gonna come to you next, because you can talk a little bit from your past experience, about how that that internal federal coordination does or doesn’t work and what we can look forward to in the next couple of years.
Yeah, you know, so I really think that what helps influence government is really what happens outside and it’s really people banding together to press a case. And I think we have a great opportunity right now, because many and how the housing industry and the Fair Housing community are seeing some alignment of their interest. You know, Morgan can tell you the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Fair Housing Alliance are working together on you know, a major initiatives and proposals and finding common cause. Likewise, we’re working with National Fair Housing Alliance and a group of industry advocates and for housing advocates on the black homeownership collaborative, a recognition that you know, You know, housing, homeownership for people of color is going to be necessary to keep growing our economy, the 75% home, homeownership rate among whites may not go much higher, you know, we’re not going to have everyone owning homes. But when we have these differentials, we, if we want to see our economy expand, we’re going to have to identify those barriers, and address those barriers for people of color. And, you know, more and more, we’re seeing the data come out from various think tanks and economists just on how much money America loses by not addressing both segregation, and these inequities. And now, you know, the White House is actually using some of that data. So the more I think we outside of government, are in lockstep on this, and, you know, sending coalition letters, joining together on, you know, different collaboratives I think that will make a difference.
Chris, this is supposed to be a conversation, I should know.
Yeah, well, and I can see that, that Bryan and Morgan have muted themselves, which leaves me like a lone man in a lifeboat. Um, you know, I just want to echo what, what, what, what, what Brian and Morgan said, and I will say, one of the things that strikes me, as I say, working on case cases close to the ground locally, is that we have not done a very good job of building bridges to the industry, as well as to local government. And what I mean by that is this, we rarely take advantages, advantage of the opportunities to, to comment and to, to speak to things such as general plan revisions or Affirmatively Furthering fair housing, opportunities, or CDBG hearings. And I know because being in local government at different times, but also suing a lot of local governments, I see what’s in these files. And I’m surprised at the at the scarcity of comments by for housing advocates. So one thing I think we need to do is just, we need to take advantage of the opportunities that are there. That’s the first thing. The second thing is I think we need to build bridges. And Brian’s alluded to this. And Morgan, by bringing in the health disparities, we need to build bridges to people in the industry. So for example, Morgan, and Brian spoke about discrimination potentially, in the appraisal of housing. We are working on one such case. And the first thing I wanted to know was, can we call an appraiser who is you know, they don’t have to be like a fellow traveler or anything like that. But can we do we know an appraiser that we can call just to say, Hey, this is a gut check? Does this look strange to you? And no one really knew an appraiser that we could call, there’s a reason we got to build those bridges. That’s one thing so that we can have those, those experts that we can go to? And, and I’m sure Brian can help us connect with some of those folks. Here’s the second thing I want to say, you know, we complain a lot to government when it does things wrong. But I think as as as social advocates, as social beings, we need to honor government when it does things right. Okay. So when, when and I think we’re in for some good things with the Biden administration, I think they’ve they put some great people in the right places. Now, when they do things that are right. We need to reach out to them say, hey, this was a great thing you did we support you on this. And by the way, we got your back when people start pushing against what you’re trying to do, whether it be the new afH, the former, the further regulation or the rewrite on disparate impact. We’ve got your back, and we appreciate what you’re doing. We need to have that conversation going both ways so that every time we pick up the phone, it isn’t like, oh, what have you screwed up this time? It’s like, Hey, you know, I’ll call you and tell you and you screw up. But I want to tell you, I really appreciate what you did in this recent rule or vote or whatever. And we’re there and we gotcha. So I’d like to see us build that conversation more because we well.
So I’m going to talk a little bit about Chris, I agree with you about engagement at the local level in building a record at CDBG hearings, consolidated planning hearings, transit hearing, Now I know I have to also go to some kind of health meeting and the guts. But I can tell you that as a in my retire, stay, I have been engaged at home. And here’s kind of the way these things go. The public hearing for the consolidate the CDBG program was scheduled, the hearing was announced December 23. For a hearing on January 4. And in the meantime, they said the hearing was for the annual plan. Did they put a copy of the plan out for me to review? No, if I didn’t know what the annual plan was, and most community members don’t. Um, and there’s nothing there that tells me this is where I go to ask for sidewalks and infrastructure and support for my neighborhood and affordable housing is I don’t know that right? One, would I be paying attention on December the 23rd. Not even the havoc is paid attention. And January 4 was the first day back to work. But they technically met the criteria of a 10 day notice. Now, I’ve caught it. And I got six people to complain. And we had, and we had them hold an extra meeting because the law requires two. But we’ll be nice to give y’all a third meeting. So they gave us the meeting. There were 2025 folks who submitted comments at the public hearing, there was a forum in February, where community organizations all across the city came. We get to the hearing on March and we give our data and then the final hearing is on April 19. And not a damn thing is changed. Not one. And so when we complained about it, they went Oh, you were in the wrong hearings. It was you were at the consolidated planning here, as you should have been at the comprehensive planning hearings, and oh, about that bus. You needed to be part of the transit planning hearings. Now. You come from a low-income neighborhood. And you are standing in a ditch waiting for the bus stop. You have your taxes have gone up 300% versus white neighborhoods that have gone up 26%. But you’re supposed to figure out which public hearing you’re supposed to be in. And even if you can’t figure it out, how much money are you expected to lose in wages, to attend all these meetings. And so you know, it’s incumbent upon us to figure out a way to work together to leverage and take pieces of this and respond. I am at Wit’s in. I get away with a lot because you know, it’s me. But if you’re a neighborhood person trying to get betterment for your neighborhood, and you go to all these meetings, and at the last one, they go to be somewhere else. Most of the community groups are so deflated, that they don’t try again. And that’s kind enough. Is that where I need to call you, Chris?
Oh, you know, I’m just going to make one observation. And it goes back to this notion that maybe our reality has shifted, it seems to me that one of the things as for housing advocates is we have to go back and be better community organizers. And that means that we have got to be the folks that build the if you will, the entry ramps into these proceedings, so that people know what hearing to go to. And I think we have to be sort of a few wild translators. I also think, again, you know, it goes back we have to build allies, their allies in the government, their allies in business. And it’s those allies. And I hate to say that we have to circumvent a bureaucracy to go and get the truth but sometimes a phone call to an ally and local government to say hey, What’s really going on? Or who do we need to talk to, can make a huge difference. We need to be putting resources into building those bridges by so that we have those allies in the future.
And, and just to this point for advocates who want some more background information on things like the consolidated planning process and how it should work, the National Low Income Housing Coalition has a great guide that add for example, set page seven DASH 29 starts a good review validated planning process and how it should work. So when jurisdictions inevitably don’t necessarily do what they should Estelle outline in myriad ways, you can use that to challenge them to do it, right.
Bryan, what do you think? How can the NAR the local realtors assist us in these processes?
Well, you know, many associations, and private for housing groups just never talk. And I, I’m always surprised, you know, and I come obviously, to NAR from HUD, and sometimes there’s just a, sometimes I think there’s fear. And sometimes there’s just, you know, lack of knowledge of who’s out there and who’s doing what. And so I’m constantly trying to bring these groups together. Because they won, you know, they have a resource in their community, they don’t need to call me all the time on fair housing matters. And then too, there’s a lot that they can do together. So for example, there’s a group formed this past year, a Facebook group called real estate professionals against racism, and they’re having great conversations on a wide variety of topics. There’s so many topics that they’re raising, where private fair housing groups would probably want to join and be part of that conversation. But they don’t necessarily know them in their community. And so they call me and then I identify the groups, but you know, if people knew them, and there’s a lot that they could be doing together, and I think that’s sort of important for, for the for housing community to appreciate to that. You know, you may think of the National Association of Realtors as a monolith, we’re 1.4 million members. And so we actually are a great cross-section of the American people. And many of the issues that you’re raising are concerned about individuals within the real estate profession are also concerned about and forming conversations and initiatives. So there’s just lots of opportunity for people to link up. So yeah, so I’ll certainly do all that I can to build those bridges. But I, you know, I encourage for housing groups to reach out to local and state real estate associations as well.
Bryan and Morgan, and for you as well, Chris, um, there’s a lot of concern going on about whether they call them pocket sales, where nothing goes out, it’s so private, that somehow it’s a private transaction. And the house never goes on the market, or it can only be sold to people within the same shown and sold to people within the same office. We’re very concerned, this goes back to the way the old ancient MLS used to work. And how, and if you have the sales, how does that how do we break through that? And, and bring about, um, make sure that the market is operating in a fair way.
So you’re absolutely right, this is a concern within the industry. And NAR has also said that transparency is key. And the very issue you raise of you no exclusivity. While you know there are many in the industry who see this as you know, an opportunity for any company to offer, you know, special exclusive opportunities, you know, in a tight market, to their network and their client base and national association realtors as pointed out that this could also perpetuate segregation. You know, if you don’t have a client base that includes a diverse group of people If you don’t put these listings out in the Multiple Listing services, where everyone can see them, it could perpetuate segregation. So that is a problem. And I think insofar as you know, fair housing groups are concerned about this as well, it’s an opportunity for us to come together and figure out what kind of policy could help change this. But I mean, we, as the National Association of Realtors have discouraged this practice.
And that just to note that leadership, and that expressed policy discouraging this is really what we needed to, to communicate strongly to the industry that it needs to stop and to provide that leadership within the industry to stop it is it pocket listings does pose that concern that Brian noted that we share deeply, it’s also an issue that can be difficult to enforce. And so the leadership from NAR on this, in the past couple years has been profound and much needed, and just applaud that.
Um, do we have is Chris, is there any way that we can utilize the provisions of the Fair Housing Act around the MLS service to perhaps attack this market? If we see that is if we can identify census tracts or communities that appear to either be altered? becoming more segregated? Or? Or is, you know, what, what kind of things? Can you imagine that we as investigators need to be looking for? To collect the evidence? We am assuming we have to use the provision of the law related to the MLS? to? To attack it? Am I in the wrong place?
Um, no, I think you are in the right place. And I think that one of the most underutilized provisions of the Fair Housing Act was the discriminatory housing practice identified in 3606, which was originally designed to deal with the brokerage of housing in the context of MLS where there were many abuses back in the 60s and 70s. And even into the 80s, in terms of how MLS manipulated access to information about the housing market, and I say it’s underutilized because I do think it’s a tool. And I know other I’ve spoken with fair housing lawyers about this, Morgan and I have spoken about it, I do think it is a tool that gives us a way to expand its application and reach to to reach into new information markets in the form of digitized information, web advertisement, things like that. Um, the challenge, of course, becomes getting access to the data. And once we get access to the data, the next challenge is how do we go ahead and analyze that data to determine where there might be a problem? And then equally important, how do we present that data? And who do we present it to? I’m going back to something I said in the very beginning, which is, oftentimes because I’m a lawyer, and I have this siloed view of the world, my thinking is what we should bring a court case. But I’m increasingly as I get older, coming to realize that that is a very weak remedy if we want to accomplish social change. And I think we need to be thinking more about when we do these studies and presenting the information to bring it to stakeholders in local government. We’re in our state government, or in now that we have an administration that will listen to the federal government. And I’ll just put this one point to this. Just to go to this one point. In California during the Trump administration, we were very frustrated that there were very few policies coming out of Washington that we thought were productive. In fact, most were counterproductive. And it is amazing to see what the California legislature did because of a lot of very skilled advocates in California, to do things like adopting and Affirmatively Furthering fair housing program during the Trump administration that actually has teeth that’s actually targeting discriminatory practices by by local jurisdictions in a way that’s never happened before. So going back to your question, I think we need to dust off section 3606. I think we need to start looking at how do we collect the data that reflects what’s going on in the housing market and analyze it, but who do we then present it to? Um, so those are my thoughts.
Thank you all are there Jake, are you seeing any questions from others that we might address?
Unfortunately, this channel is needed for a one o’clock session.
All right. Well, thank you all so much for your participation. I appreciate every single one of you. And I’m sorry, I am looking at the clock and we have all you got to do to say goodbye. Because that’s all we got time for. Thank you.
Thank you so much, everyone. You’re troopers.
Thank you. Bye bye.