While the terms “bias” and “discrimination” tend to evoke mixed emotions among real estate professionals, they’re also two challenges that industry leaders are working to overcome.
One way to accomplish this goal is through accountability, culture change and training, says Bryan Greene, vice president, policy advocacy at the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Greene has played an intricate role in NAR’s efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion while also addressing implicit bias in recent years through its Fair Housing ACT initiative.
During the organization’s REALTOR® Conference and Expo in San Diego, California this past November, Greene sat down with RISMedia to discuss NAR’s progress and developments in combating discrimination and implicit bias in the industry through various programs it debuted early last year.
Jordan Grice: It’s been two years since NAR introduced its Fair Housing Act Initiative to the industry. Can you tell us about the progress you’ve made?
Bryan Greene: We have said that we want to do more than your regular classroom training. So two main pieces of training that we’ve launched are an interactive program called Fairhaven, which you do online. You visit a virtual community called Fairhaven, where, unfortunately, there is a lot of discrimination. It tests you by confronting you with situations that you’ll recognize as bias in yourself, clients and other real estate professionals.
The other training focuses on implicit bias, which the Perception Institute has created for us. They worked with healthcare professionals, the courts and police departments to help people recognize that we all have biases. Our brain plays with us in part because we need our brain often to do quick thinking, but it can also misjudge situations.
The point is to help people appreciate that this is something they need to work on, and people don’t need to feel guilty about living in a society where many of us pick up bias just by walking around and living. The purpose here is to help people recognize it and find ways to interrupt it.
JG: What can you tell us about plans to deepen those training opportunities for REALTORSⓇ?
BG: Last year, we previewed what this training was about with a 50-minute video. It helped people appreciate the concept. Now we’re rolling out a three-hour course to go deeper, and we had one of those trainers here at this conference provide a deeper overview to really give people more of a flavor of what this is about and to road test some of that here.
We’re very excited about that, and again it’s an effort to engage people more and provide them with a more interactive experience in identifying and confronting bias.
JG: What was the reception like among the sample NAR introduced the training to last year?
BG: It’s been very positive. It’s one of those things where the more people do it and talk about it, the more it will catch on.
Our president, Charlie Oppler, challenged people to view the video, “What Implicit Bias is in Housing,” and challenged them to take the Fairhaven course. We will continue to do, promote and encourage people to do this, both our volunteer leaders and our 1.5 million members and the brokerages that are represented.
JG: What will it take to get substantial adoption of this program among agents?
BG: We’ll make more progress when people begin to institutionalize the training, and some brokerages are doing that now. They are bringing the Fairhaven training in-house, putting it on their platforms, and requiring it among their agents. That’s one thing, but also getting continuing education credit for it where people have to satisfy requirements on this training.
We also have some states and localities adopting Fairhaven and/or the “Bias Override”—the implicit bias training. They are adopting that program or something similar as the necessary training to satisfy continuing education requirements. The more that happens, the more institutionalized this kind of training will be, and it might spawn competitors and other types of training like this.
JG: What are the biggest challenges to getting more REALTORSⓇ and brokerages to adopt these programs?
BG: One of the biggest challenges is the assumptions we all make that we know it all and that we are good people and, therefore, we won’t benefit from this.
Even with 30 years of professional experience enforcing fair housing laws, I still found the Fairhaven platform—which I helped develop—challenging for me because it in many ways simulated how cases would come to me as the fair housing enforcement official.
I also think it’s important for people to recognize that bias isn’t just about malicious acts. People need to understand that there are systems that can produce bias. There is a culture that can produce bias if there are unquestioned assumptions or if you just let the system do what it does without examining what’s gone into it and how it operates.
Suppose people can step back and recognize that they can be part of the solution by examining the outcomes and reverse engineering what goes into underwriting or appraisal opinions of value. In that case, it may help people be agents of change. People need to objectively look at these systems and situations and not assume unnecessary guilt for those outcomes.
For more information, visit https://www.nar.realtor/.
Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate online editor. Email him your real estate news to email@example.com.