Illinois RTEALTOR® Public Policy Meetings Fair Housing Forum participants (l to r): Moderator Genie Birch, Nykea Pippion-McGriff, Tommy Choi, Jessica Barrera, Vicky Silvano and Courtney Q. Jones.
Forum participants (l to r): Moderator Genie Birch, Nykea Pippion-McGriff, Tommy Choi, Jessica Barrera, Vicky Silvano and Courtney Q. Jones.

At the Illinois REALTORS® Public Policy Meetings in January, a panel of REALTORS® talked about the state of fair housing, equality in the homebuying process and some of the issues that still exist. Here are their insights:

Nykea Pippion-McGriff
broker with DreamTown Realty in Chicago and a past president of the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, Chicago

“The fair housing fight is not a 50-year fight; it’s a 2018 fight, a 2019 fight,” REALTOR® Nykea Pippion-McGriff said.

REALTORS® are doing a good job of identifying what not to do, but they could stand to do a better job promoting what to do, she said. One key is staying educated about potential fair housing issues.

She said it’s not uncommon for her to get asked by another broker if someone has to rent to someone with a Section 8 voucher, which is a fair housing question since Section 8 voucher holders are included in the definition of source of income, a protected class under Cook County’s Human Rights Ordinance.

“It is our job to stop what we’re doing at that point to educate the consumer, to educate the client, to educate your peer who is asking you that question and point them to some resources and, preferably some classes,” she said. “The face of the fair housing fight has changed.”

It is also important for REALTORS® to be well-versed in the different affordable housing and accessible credit programs that are available to help people stay in their homes in neighborhoods that are going through gentrification.

People who have lived in communities for years could find themselves forced to move as property values climb beyond affordability, she said. Too often, minority communities can find themselves hardest hit in the transition and REALTORS® need to be proactive in helping them.

Overall, it is imperative that REALTORS® educate themselves, but they must also hold themselves accountable when they see something that seems wrong, she said.

“When discrimination is blatant or someone is doing something that’s illegal, against license law or against the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, you’ve got to call them on the carpet. “

Tommy Choi
co-founder of Weinberg Choi Residential Team and broker-owner of Keller Williams Chicago-Lincoln Park, president-elect of Chicago Association of REALTORS® and vice chair of NAR’s Young Professionals Network Advisory Board

An important part of adequately and fairly representing minority clients is understanding the cultural differences that might play into the homebuying process and their decision-making.

REALTOR® Tommy Choi’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Korea, so he understands the cultural nuances of working with other Korean American clients. For example, they might not push for a home inspection because they don’t want to inconvenience the parties or because many of them are small business owners, they might not have the W-2s needed to apply for a mortgage.

Understanding people and building relationships is a lesson his father instilled in him.

“You’re going to meet people that you’re going to be the very first Korean, let alone Asian person, that they have ever met and they might like that and some might not,” Choi said. “Either way you have to treat everyone equally and find a way to build a relationship.”

When there are fair housing issues, REALTORS® need to share their stories and not to dwell on the problem, but to bring them to the light and focus on the solutions, he said.

Jessica Barrera
broker-owner of West Town Realty in Chicago and president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals – Chicago Chapter

REALTOR® Jessica Barrera got into real estate after seeing her parents get bad advice from a real estate agent. Her parents weren’t familiar with the homebuying process, didn’t speak English and signed paperwork that wasn’t in their best interest, she said.

The experience prompted her to become a REALTOR® to help her family, but she soon saw that there were other people in her community like her parents who needed a bilingual agent.

Buyers who don’t speak English have the common goal to become a homeowner, and they shouldn’t have to worry about being taken advantage of, she said.

“We signed faithfully because of a dream that we have, praying that the person in front of us or representing us is being an honest person,” Barrera said.

Everyone needs to realize that sometimes discrimination is right in front of you and sometimes you don’t see it until you go back and compare notes, she said.

Barrera shared the experience of an agent in her office who took a client dressed in construction work clothes to see an expensive home. The listing agent stopped them and said the client wouldn’t be able to afford the property. Unbeknownst to the listing agent, the client owned the construction company and was ready to pay cash for the home.

“Have zero tolerance for it and it really starts with us,” she said. “We’re not just here to serve our own communities, we need to be an example that we are here as REALTORS® to serve everybody.”

Fair Housing Partners

The Asian Real Estate Association of America was founded in 2003 to represent the interests of the Asian real estate market nationwide and to promote the mission of increasing Asian American homeownership. AREAA has one chapter in Illinois, the Greater Chicago chapter.
The National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals was founded in 2007 with the mission of advocating on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community on issues of housing and discrimination laws.
The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals was founded in 1999 with a mission of advancing Hispanic homeownership through industry education, community advocacy and networking. NAHREP has a chapter in Chicago.
The National Association of Real Estate Brokers was founded in 1947 and is the oldest minority professional trade association in the country. The Chicago board, the Dearborn REALTIST® Board, predates NAREB’s founding, having been formed in 1941. NAREB has a mission to promote democracy in housing for the African American community and other minority groups through advocacy, action and activism.
The Women’s Council of REALTORS® was formed in 1938 and has the mission of advancing women as professionals and leaders in business, the real estate industry and in their communities. WCR has eight chapters in Illinois including Peoria, Rockford, Chicago and five in the Chicago suburbs.

50 Years Of Fair Housing

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. Fifty years later, Illinois REALTORS® commemorates the progress that has been made to provide equal housing opportunity for all and looks at the challenges that remain.