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Real Estate OC: REALTORS® Are the Only Guardians of Homeownership

Tony Capitelli
By Tony Capitelli
DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS

In this, the fiftieth year since passage of the Fair Housing Act, we acknowledge once again that fighting for the dream of homeownership means advocating to ensure that everyone has equal access to it.

Advocacy is not merely part of what we do as an Association; it is at the core of our mission. It’s easy to take the prospect of owning a home for granted, but the reality is that the dream of homeownership is under constant attack. Because of misinformed ideologies, what was once the easiest lift up the economic ladder for many is no longer attainable for the vast majority of Californians; however, Orange County REALTORS® are not sitting idly by.

In early May, members of OC REALTORS® who serve as California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) Directors and members of the OC REALTORS® Leadership Academy (a delegation of about sixty in total) marched up to Sacramento to fight for homeownership. They met with all the Orange County members of the state Assembly and Senate and pushed for things like increased housing supply, homeownership savings accounts, and accessory dwellings units, the last one of which just might be the best solution to the housing crisis.

While in Sacramento, they received word that the C.A.R. Property Tax Fairness Initiative had qualified for the ballot. This initiative— which would allow seniors fifty-five and older, the disabled, and victims of natural disasters to carry their current Proposition 13– protected property tax assessment level to another home anywhere in the state—has the potential to free up a huge amount of muchneeded housing stock.

At the end of May, members of Orange County REALTORS® who serve as National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Directors made a similar trek to Washington, D.C., to do the very same thing. While the political environment in our nation’s capital is much different from that in Sacramento, other forms of attack on homeownership abound.

Meeting with local members of Congress, we asked for changes to the antihomeownership tax bill that passed last year. These included eliminating the marriage penalty and increasing the state and local tax deduction for married couples. We also advocated for fairness on the internet by supporting net neutrality; and we urged that the National Flood Insurance Program, which would protect up to 60,000 transactions, be reauthorized.

The theme for these NAR Legislative Meetings was Fair Housing in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. This Act declared a national policy of fair housing throughout the United States and made illegal any discrimination in the sale, lease, or rental of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Although twenty-one states (including California) also prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, federal law does not specifically mention either sexual orientation or gender identity.

Fighting for the dream of homeownership means advocating to ensure that everyone has equal access to it. To demonstrate strong support for this concept of equal access, members of the Orange County REALTORS® Board of Directors approved a Resolution in Support of H.R. 1447, the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017, which would extend Fair Housing Protections to the LGBTQ community.

REALTORS® are the only guardians of homeownership. If you wish to become more involved in our advocacy efforts, contact me at tonyc@ocar.org.

Resolution in Support of H.R. 1447
The Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017

WHEREAS, food, clothing, and shelter are essential for human life, and human beings seek shelter in a place that is clean, safe, and welcoming and fondly call this place “home”; and

WHEREAS, because home is so important, fairness in both the availability of housing and access to it is vital; and

WHEREAS, in 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited all racial discrimination in the sale or rental of property; and

WHEREAS, in 1968, Congress strengthened the Civil Rights Act by adding Title VIII, known as the Fair Housing Act, which declared a national policy of fair housing throughout the United States and made illegal any discrimination in the sale, lease, or rental of housing based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin; and

WHEREAS, in 1974, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which made it unlawful to discriminate with respect to any aspect of a credit application based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age (provided the applicant has the capacity to enter into a contract), or because all or part of the applicant’s income is derived from a public assistance program; and

WHEREAS, in 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in places of public accommodations and in commercial facilities; and

WHEREAS, California law was amended in 1999 to ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and was amended yet again, five years later, to ban discrimination based on his or her gender identity; and

WHEREAS, in this tradition of fair practice in both the availability of housing and access to it, members of the U.S. House of Representatives have proposed H.R. 1447, which may be cited as the “Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017” and which would ensure that the protections of the Fair Housing Act are extended to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans by

  • amending the Fair Housing Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity as classes that are protected against discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing;
  • defining the term gender identity as “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth”;
  • defining the term sexual orientation as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality”; and
  • adding prohibitions against discrimination based on an individual’s association with another person who is a member of such a protected class or a perception or belief, even if inaccurate, that an individual is a member of such protected class; and

WHEREAS, the National Association of REALTORS® adopted in 1913 a Code of Ethics as a declaration of the industry’s principles and beliefs and,

WHEREAS, the Preamble to this Code of Ethics concludes with the following words:

The term REALTOR® has come to connote competency, fairness, and high integrity resulting from adherence to a lofty ideal of moral conduct in business relations. No inducement of profit and no instruction from clients ever can justify departure from this ideal.

In the interpretation of this obligation, REALTORS® can take no safer guide than that which has been handed down through the centuries, embodied in the Golden Rule, “Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

WHEREAS, Article 10 of this Code of Ethics states, in pertinent part, “REALTORS® shall not deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” and further, “REALTORS® shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity”;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Orange County REALTORS® Board of Directors

  • does find that H.R. 1447, the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017, is consistent with its long-held belief that home seekers have a right to expect housing in their price range made available to them without discrimination; equal professional service; the opportunity to consider a broad range of housing choices; no discrimination in the financing, appraising, or insuring of housing; and freedom from harassment or intimidation while exercising their fair housing rights;
  • does affirm its support for H.R. 1447; and
  • does strongly encourage the swift passage of this bill as a means of further ensuring fairness in housing purchase, lease, and rental practices.