Realtor Association Apologizes for Past Discrimination

CAR president Otto Catrina, incoming CAR president Jennifer Branchini and Derrick Luckett (CAR, LinkedIn, Getty)
CAR president Otto Catrina, incoming CAR president Jennifer Branchini and Derrick Luckett (CAR, LinkedIn, Getty)

California Association of Realtors, the state’s largest real estate trade group, made a formal apology Oct. 21 on behalf of its predecessor organization, California Real Estate Association’s activism in housing segregation during the 20th century.

At a news conference at its offices in Los Angeles’ Koreatown district, Otto Catrina, CAR’s president, said that CREA sponsored policies which gave the state a tainted legacy of “redlining,” racially restrictive covenants and a fear that integrated neighborhoods would damage property values.

“I am here to say the association was wrong,” Catrina said of the CREA name which stopped being used in 1974. “We not only apologize for these actions. We strongly condemn them. We will continue working to address the legacy of discriminatory policies and practices.”

Derrick Luckett, an African American who is chairman of California Association of Real Estate Brokers and San Diego branch housing chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said his group knows well the history of discrimination in the real estate business. In the mid-20th century, racial minorities were not allowed to use the moniker “realtors.” So his group used its own moniker “realtists.”

“I want to thank God for this historical moment. It has been a long time coming. A lot of people have been denied wealth and things that they should be entitled to,” Luckett said. “And I think from this point forward, that we’re going to be in a better place and a better space, and we’re going to be eventually one big group to make sure that we are all fighting for a democracy in housing.”

Catrina noted that CREA had a history of excluding women and people of color from membership. In the 1960s, it also encouraged members to support Proposition 14, which overturned California’s first fair housing law in 1964. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967 the proposition was unconstitutional.

Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, CAR has encouraged its members to follow the federal, state and local ordinances ending housing segregation.

CAR is the latest real estate trade group to apologize for a history of discrimination. In September, St. Louis Realtors, a trade group in Missouri, gave a formal apology for its history of discrimination. In 2020, the National Association of Realtors made an apology.

CAR made a formal apology in 2022 after members living in the San Francisco Bay Area requested the trade group’s leadership do so. The apology was ratified at the group’s convention which ran Oct. 12-13 in Long Beach.

Incoming CAR President Jennifer Branchini said that the trade group would be active in trying to right past wrongs by sponsoring a law which requires real estate salespeople to undergo implicit bias training, CAR also worked on a law which passed in 2021, AB 948, that strengthened consumer protections against appraisal bias

Other steps include donating to an assistance program for Black home buyers in the Bay Area. The association also will support state legislation which attempts to solve the housing crisis, such as Senate Pro Tem’s Toni Atkins’ California Dream for All bill, which would assist first-time homebuyers by providing 17 percent of the purchase price for their first home.

CAR also supports AB 1466, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law last year.

The law deletes racist and discriminatory language from property documents such as grant deeds. Discriminatory language remains in fine print of many property documents. If the letter of the law is followed, people of color would not be allowed to live in houses with such deeds, the bill’s author said.

California is among a handful of states to pass such laws, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Currently, county recorders’ offices are working thorough gargantuan jobs of redacting discriminatory language from millions of property documents. County of Riverside has been working with proptech firm First American Data & Analytics, a division of First American Financial, to go through documents for several years, such as 1937, 1945, 1953 and 1963. Lisa Anderson, an assistant assessor for Riverside County, said modifying the documents for the first group of years should be wrapped by the end of October.

She also confirmed her office will not rewrite history. Rather, original documents bearing discriminatory language will not be destroyed. They will be available for review by property owners and members of the public.

By Andrew Asch

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