Across the country, there are places where it simply isn’t safe for some people to live. In a time where states continue to pass discriminatory laws, with hate crimes and discrimination on the rise, a group of over 75,000 members of the real estate community are calling on colleagues, friends and REALTOR® leadership to be part of the solution.
Stop Hate in Real Estate is the name of this new initiative, launched by the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance with the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and the California Association of REALTORS®’ (CAR) WomanUp! Project joining in.
According to LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance President Erin Morrison, the project is meant to rally real estate professionals around the values of inclusion and understanding, and confront discrimination both in and outside of the community.
“I believe we have the power to help change the trajectory of our nation so that we do not have to wake up each morning to headlines of discrimination and hate,” Morrison said at a press conference yesterday. “I want to advance the right to homeownership for all.”
To start, the initiative asks agents to sign a pledge vowing to be a positive influence and combat hate in their circles. Efforts are also underway to “forge partnerships” with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), as well as federal housing organizations and other advocacy groups. Education also promises to be a big part of the nascent movement, and training in how to report acts of discrimination.
A spokesperson for Anywhere Real Estate told RISMedia that the company has signed the pledge, with Liz Gehringer, president and CEO of Anywhere franchise brands, making the announcement.
With a cascade of state laws targeting members of the LGBTQ community passed over the last couple years, as well as legislation aimed directly at certain ethnic and immigrant groups, Morrison and other advocates joining Stop Hate said that real estate professionals have the chance to be a part of the solution.
“We also see the impact of discrimination in our nation’s homeownership levels,” said Nuria Rivera, 2023 president of NAHREP. “How is it possible that the Hispanic homeownership rate is 49%, which is 25.5% behind non-Hispanic whites? Racism and discrimination are a big reason.”
The increases in discrimination and hate are deeply connected to housing at every level. Morrison cited a recent Redfin study, which found that more than one in 10 people (10.6%) said they were considering moving in the next year due to discrimination in their neighborhood.
These people are not just statistics, the Stop Hate advocates emphasized, inviting three families to share their personal stories. Brianna Hurley, a mother who had been living in Texas with her transgender son, was forced to uproot her life when the state began passing discriminatory laws—including allowing child protective services investigations on the basis of gender affirming care.
In an emotional address to the audience, Hurley described being shunned by her small town community once her son came out, and having to take preventative measures in fear of having their children taken away by the state.
“We were advised to have a safe folder with statements from friends and family to prove what good and loving parents we are,” she said. “We had to teach them not to speak to any adults that we don’t already know.”
The family eventually fled the state, taking “a huge loss” on the sale of their house.
“We tried to stay and fight, but couldn’t risk sacrificing him. The hate that this incredible boy experienced for acknowledging his truth should never have happened,” she said.
Also from Texas were Jodi and Owen Egerton, whose transgender daughter also faced discrimination from neighbors—and the state.
“Ultimately, we knew we had to leave our home,” said Jodi Egerton. “Our REALTOR® Jill Leberknight understood everything we were going through and was amazing.”
Besides taking a financial loss, Egerton said they had to leave everything else behind, moving to Massachusetes, which has codified protections for LGBTQ people in housing, education and healthcare.
“We miss our friends, we miss our community, and we’re angry that we were essentially forced to make a poor financial decision, though it was one we knew we had to make,” Egerton said.
Another family, who recorded their story in order to remain anonymous, described living in North Carolina as that state rolled back protections for LGBTQ people, specifically in schools. The couple, who are gay, said their daughter would not have even been allowed to identify her parents at school, based on new legislation.
That family also made a difficult move, to California, and also expressed gratitude for their agent, who they say understood their needs and held their hands navigating a new housing market.
Making a movement
While the Stop Hate initiative promises further work and lobbying, it is at this most fundamental that the advocates involved urged real estate professionals to begin their work—speaking to clients and colleagues.
“We want to see the change in people. We want to see the change for the better of our communities to where people feel free in being who they are,” said Rivera.
Hope Atuel, CEO of AREAA, said that a migration by fast-growing immigrant populations away from “traditional urban strongholds” is due to the discrimination they face there, which both includes and goes beyond housing issues. She referenced dozens of proposed state laws (with some already signed into law) targeting foreign nations of various countries.
“Now even real estate professionals can be penalized and can be found liable for working with Chinese people in these real estate transactions,” Atuel said. “Clearly real estate agents and the public will therefore be nervous to be working with us, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
These laws, mostly aimed at Chinese nationals, left real estate professionals scrambling to understand their liabilities, and were broadly seen as having a chilling effect on potential buyers and sellers from Asian countries.
Looking at all the discrimination and hate facing these diverse groups, Atuel argued that most of it was driven by a “vocal minority,” and coalitions like Stop Hate will prove that most of the country wants to welcome and embrace their neighbors.
But Stop Hate also hopes to drive more top-level and substantive change, according to Sarah Sutachan, SVP at CAR and co-creator of WomanUp! She also referenced sexual harassment at NAR, applauding the women who have come forward.
“It’s systemic, and we are committed as an organization at WomanUp, at CAR and all of the organizations represented here to break down and root out discrimination and harassment in our industry.”
Sutachan said CAR has approved $2 million for closing cost assistance for underserved communities, including LGBTQ families.
Going forward, Morrison said Stop Hate hopes not only to liaison with industry leaders, but to join them, empowering and mentoring individuals from these groups to take on leadership roles locally and beyond. Stop Hate is also continuing to call on REALTOR® political action committees to withhold funding from politicians who support discriminatory legislation.
“We will work to make sure that those in our industry fully understand that our nation was built by the people, for the people, and we are created equal with unalienable rights that include life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” Morrison said. “We understand that life today, when discrimination and hatred of others become louder and more invasive, we will have to work even harder, and we will.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the $2 million in closing cost assistance to WomanUp. That funding comes directedly from CAR.