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Housing Discrimination - The Issue is Not So Black and White

This year, the death of George Floyd focused the nation on the issue of race. Racial discrimination became the cause-du-jour for every actual and perceived injustice, often to the exclusion of any other viable and reasonable possible cause.

The real estate industry is currently awaiting the selection of a court date in the case of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) vs. Redfin. In the lawsuit, the NFHA claims that customers of homes in non-white areas are far less likely to be offered Redfin’s services and discounts than customers of homes in white areas and that this perpetuates residential segregation.

Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, a historically outspoken man against racial injustice, admits that Redfin selects which areas to serve because it needs to pay its employees a living wage. This is relevant because Redfin follows an atypical real estate business model which dictates that the company pays their agents a salary, health insurance, and other benefits. There is one consideration that is blatantly overlooked by the NFHA, socioeconomics.

There are two sides to this lawsuit. The NFHA has to prove that Redfin created their minimum home value requirements to intentionally avoid servicing black home owners. Redfin has to prove that their minimum home value requirements were created to support a viable business model and that the exclusion of predominantly black home owners is not intentional.

I believe that the Redfin model intentionally discriminates against lower socio-economic home owners but does so in order to support their unique real estate business model.

We can evolve when we identify racial discrimination and appropriately act against it, as long as the means justifies the end, and we seek the truth. However, when the end justifies the means and we cite racial discrimination, to the exclusion of the consideration of everything else, we regress by ignoring the truth.

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