Monday, April 7, 2014

Did you realize that the Code of Ethics once required discrimination?

I've been doing research on the Code of Ethics as it applies to Fair Housing and the new "Religious Freedom" Laws.  I still have a lot to learn, but I found some very intersting details about segregation.

In the late 1910's Protective Covenants became popular as a way of protecting white neighborhoods.  The states were barred from setting specific racial boundaries, but private citizens could.  The Supreme Court case, Corrigan v Buckley, resulted from a 1921 agreement between thirty white persons who owned 25 parcels of land. These individuals agreed that no part of any of these properties would be sold, leased, or given to anyone of African American descent.  The court upheld the rights of property owners to protect their land from being sold to non-whites.

It's interesting to see that the Code of Ethics went even farther.  Even if the land was not protected, Realtors could not sell property to those whose presence was detrimental.

ARTICLE 5 (renumbed from 35) of the Code of Ethics from 1924 to the mid-1950's read:
"A Realtor should not be instrumental in introducing a character or use of property for occupancy by members of any race or nationality or individual whose presence will be detrimental to the neighborhood"

Here's an example: "16. Racial Restrictions:  NO property is said Addition shall at any time be sold, conveyed, rented or leased in whole or in part to any person or persons not of the White or Caucasian race.  No person other than one of the White or Caucasian race shall be permitted to occupy any property in said Addition or portion there of or building thereon except a domestic servant actually employed by a person of the White or Caucasian race where the latter is an occupant of such property."

In 1956, due to the affects of the decision in Shelley v. Kraemer, which struck down protective covenants, like the one above, placed on the land, the COE was amended as follows:
ARTICLE 5 from the mid 1950's to 1974
"A realtor should not be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or use which will clearly be detrimental to the property values in that neighborhood."

While they took out race and national decent, the meaning was still clear.  Fair Housing was not our aim. Realtors who actually disagreed could be fined or removed from the local Board due to selling a property to the wrong person.  Can you imagine someone trying this today?

In 1963, California Legislature passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act which outlawed restrictive covenants and the refusal to rent or sell property on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or physical disability.

In reaction to the law, a well-funded coalition of REALTORS and landlords was determined to protect white neighborhoods and property values. They immediately began to campaign for a referendum that would amend the state Constitution to protect property owners' ability to deny minorities equal access to housing. Known as Proposition 14, it was passed by 65 percent of the voters.

In 1964 the US Government passed the Federal Fair Housing Act which has been amended over time to be the great instrument of equality we know today.

(This sounds very familiar as California passed gay marriage, Prop 8 was voted in taking it away by popular election, and now the Supreme Court has set that proposition aside.)

I also discovered that a separate organization for African-American agents.  The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) was formed July 29, 1947, making it the oldest minority trade association in America. NAREB was established by African-American real estate professionals as an alternative for African-Americans who were excluded from the National Association of Realtors.

So as I look at the struggle we are having now to protect LGBT clients and realtors by trying to stem the tide of RPAC / TREPAC endorsements to homophobic candidates, I have to realize that change takes time.  It takes advocates and it takes dedication.  And that the steps being taken to stop change have been tried before, and they have failed.

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