Saturday, March 8, 2008

Diversity Initiatives Strengthen Community Influence

Recently I had the privilege to obtain my "At Home with Diversity" Certification through the National Association of REALTORS®. Here are some things I wanted to share that I picked from NAR and the course.

Diversity Initiatives Strengthen Community Influence
REALTOR® associations around the country have taken the lead on issues of importance to foreign-born and other minority communities – with highly visible results. Working within communities, these REALTOR® associations have been able to:

Promote minority homeownership. The California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.), the country’s largest statewide real estate association, has become famous for pioneering initiatives to promote minority homeownership. The Leadership Summit inaugurated by C.A.R. in 2000 was instrumental in launching the HOPE (Home Ownership Participation for Everyone) Awards program, which gives $10,000 honoraria to individuals and associations who have advanced the cause. The Summit has grown to include Chinese American, Hispanic, Korean, and African American real estate organizations.

Become an industry trend-setter. The Houston Association of REALTORS® also prides itself on responding to the city’s rapidly changing demographics. To ensure its continuing influence within the local homebuilding and homebuying environment, HAR has established working partnerships with over 50 organizations, many of which represent emerging markets. HAR also sends speakers throughout the metropolitan area, which turned a corner in 2000 when Anglos ceased to be the majority population group. “We are educating the emerging markets about homeownership,” explains HAR Chair Dovie Morgan. The Association has built a Web site that is widely regarded as an industry trend-setter: listings are taken online, and the site offers translations in several languages, including Spanish, German, and Vietnamese.

Boost cooperation. The MetroTex Association of REALTORS® in the Dallas-Fort Worth area worked with local chapters of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) to organize the first statewide convention for Hispanic real estate professionals in Texas. One of the most important outcomes was an agreement between the two groups to continue cooperating on a regular basis. “The Association put NAHREP chapters in touch with the San Antonio Board of REALTORS® to organize a second statewide convention in 2005.”

Gain access to information. Networking expertise is also paying off for the Seattle King County Association of REALTORS®, whose Presidential Advisory Group on Cultural Diversity has established ties with many groups representing minority real estate agents and has succeeded in diversifying the SKCAR leadership. “We had agents of color on our board before,” says Ginger Downs, executive vice president, “but this is the largest concentration.” An added benefit of networking is that it gives members access to cultural and socioeconomic information they need to handle transactions in emerging markets.

Improve professional image. Diversity initiatives can also improve professional image. This was demonstrated in New York State, where testing by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development prompted the Greater Rochester Association of REALTORS® to improve minority access to homeownership. The Association did its own testing and, joining forces with a nonprofit housing advocacy group, took the lead in addressing problems through diversity education, community outreach, and minority membership recruitment.

Restore respect. Baltimore is another example. There, the image of real estate professionals took a blow from widespread scams targeting low-income African American homebuyers. The Greater Baltimore Board of REALTORS® spearheaded a broad-based coalition to educate the public and curb fraudulent practices. Gathering the political and financial support of both government and the private sector, the REALTORS® launched a comprehensive public awareness campaign, which achieved its objectives and also helped to restore respect to the real estate profession in the targeted communities.

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