Ventura County Realtors to continue working hard to combat discrimination

The last few years have brought about many long-overdue conversations, especially about race. Through these conversations, we have explored the painful ways people of color were discriminated against — and in too many cases are still being discriminated against.

Regrettably, for many years over the past century, the real estate industry played an important role in promoting housing discrimination, through such measures as restrictive covenants that prohibited selling homes to Blacks and other minorities in white communities. While we cannot undo the damage that has been done, we must stand together united in this fight against discrimination and the first step forward is to formally apologize for past actions that were taken, individually and collectively.

As this year’s president of the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors (VCCAR), I am proud to say that our statewide association did just that last month.

At its fall business meetings, the board of the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) collectively approved a motion to formally apologize for past discriminatory policies, including sponsoring Proposition 14, a 1960s ballot measure that overturned the state’s first fair housing law, and for spearheading the passage of Article 34 in the state Constitution, which to this day makes it extremely difficult to build affordable housing.

Along with this apology, C.A.R. has committed its time and resources towards building more inclusive communities. These actions include:

  • Offering a closing cost grant for members of underserved communities.

  • Co-sponsoring a bill to overturn Article 34.

  • Sponsoring a law to require periodic implicit bias training for all real estate salespersons.

  • And helping to shape a new law to strengthen consumer protection in instances of appraisal bias.

These types of conversations are never easy and taking responsibility, especially at this level and on behalf of people, many of whom are no longer part of the industry, requires a great deal of humility. However, B.J. Ward, the owner of Comfort Real Estate in Ventura, a past VCCAR President and a current member of the C.A.R. Board of Directors, elegantly made the case for an apology.

“The discussion that we had at the BOD meeting was not an easy one by any means. No matter the color of your skin, it was uncomfortable to go to the mic and voice your opinion because it's an emotionally charged topic,” Ward said.

“I'm proud of our board for having the hard conversation and I am beyond pleased with the outcome of the vote. The acts we engaged in that promoted segregation and discrimination were egregious, blatant, outright wrong and completely against the fabric of who we are. The impact of these actions is still seen in minority communities to this day.

“I am confident CAR will continue its work to bridge the homeownership gap moving forward, while ensuring nothing like that ever happens again.”

At VCCAR, we have worked tirelessly to combat discrimination and violations of the Fair Housing Act and applaud C.A.R.’s action. We launched implicit bias training before the new law was enacted to really explore how some assumptions might lead to inadvertent discrimination. The room was packed, and our members made it clear they want to continue to have these conversations and to make sure that they are doing the right thing.

We also have an established Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to promote and guide our commitment to those concepts and to help members successfully compete in a diverse marketplace. Our Professional Standards Committee conducts due process hearings on alleged violations of the Code of Ethics, whereby violators can be disciplined or, in extreme cases, even expelled from our Association.

Here in Ventura County, we will continue to work hard to ensure all buyers and sellers receive top-quality representation from their Realtors, without regard to race, creed or color.

Ashley Q. Anderson is a Realtor with Keller Williams West Ventura County and 2022 President of the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors, a professional trade association of over 2,000 licensed real estate agents serving the cities of Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Fillmore and Port Hueneme.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: County Realtors to continue working hard to combat discrimination