Loretta Alonzo-Deubel - broker with Century 21 Affiliated in Westchester - PHOTO BY StoryTeller Studios
Loretta Alonzo-Deubel – broker with Century 21 Affiliated in Westchester – PHOTO BY StoryTeller Studios

A past Illinois REALTORS® state president and a trailblazer in her own right, Loretta Alonzo-Deubel is no stranger to being treated differently in the home buying process because of her race and gender.

When she and her late husband purchased their first home in 1971, she was taken aback when the lawyer reviewing her contract asked why she wanted to move to Berwyn as there were no other Mexicans living there.

“I don’t care,” she told him. “That’s where I want to live.”

As the process moved forward, Alonzo-Deubel, who was working full time and making a good income, was told by the lender that her salary would not be counted as income toward qualifying for the mortgage loan because as a married woman she would eventually stop working to have children.

“Being the strong-willed woman that I am, I was appalled that they wouldn’t count my income as well,” she said.

When she did move into her home, a next-door neighbor moved out, saying they didn’t want to live next to a Mexican family. Alonzo-Deubel later got her real estate license and was among the first Latino REALTORS® in the community.

She started to make a difference by getting involved with her local REALTOR® association. They tackled local government efforts to restrict real estate signs in yards, a move to make it harder for people to drive through the community and see what was for sale.

Other communities tried to push strict inspection ordinances or severe restrictions on the square footage allowed for bedrooms in an attempt to keep the number of people who could live in a home low, she said.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go,” she said. “Prejudices are never going to go away. They’re better than they were before, but you’re still going to see them because people grow up with them.”

Diversity in the REALTOR® community has grown significantly, but Alonzo-Deubel said it’s important for people to share their history so that new REALTORS® know the legacy of fair housing and recognize what still needs to be done.

One way to build even more industry inclusion is to encourage more members from diverse backgrounds to get involved in leadership, she said.

“There are plenty (of potential leaders) out there that just are sort of sitting back and not taking that next step,” she said. “I think it’s our responsibility as past leaders, and myself as a woman and a minority, to tap them on the shoulder and say, ‘try it, go for it.’”

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, Illinois REALTORS® worked with The Storytellers Studios to produce a video telling the story of REALTOR® involvement, past and present, in the fair housing movement. In the video, Illinois REALTOR® members share their personal experiences in the fight for equal opportunity in housing and reflect on what more needs to be done.

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.