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St. Louis Realtors issues apology to Black St. Louisans for practicing discrimination

David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Realtors Association issued a public apology at Harris-Stowe State University on Monday for its role in housing discrimination toward Black families in the St. Louis region.

The St. Louis Realtors Association issued a public apology Monday to Black people in the region for its role in practicing housing discrimination and implementing racist housing policies for decades.

White people in St. Louis are nearly twice as likely as African Americans to own homes.

Across the nation, Black homeownership rates are nearly the same today as they were when Congress passed the Federal Fair Housing Act in 1968.

Although restricting homeownership because of race, ethnicity or religion is illegal, housing discrimination against Black homebuyers persists through lending scoring, appraisal biases and lack of access to bank loans and mortgages, which widens the racial wealth gap.

Redlining and restrictive covenants long created a dual housing market for white and Black families, St. Louis Realtors President Katie Berry said.

“Numerous historical events, laws, decisions and initiatives reflect the history of explicit racial segregation and discrimination,” she said at Harris-Stowe State University. “We apologize for these actions.”

The association also created 22 initiatives to promote Black homeownership. It commits to teaching potential homebuyers financial literacy and how to preserve assets, as well as support legislation to eliminate restrictive covenants. It also will work with Black realty organizations in the area, sponsor mentorship programs to help attract and retain Black real estate agents and push the Missouri Realtors association to require mandatory federal fair housing continuing education training for agents.

Advocates for fair housing say the apology and plan to increase homeownership in the Black community are long overdue.

“It's really important that we all come together in concert to advance these initiatives, so that we can create the equitable outcomes that our communities really truly deserve,” said Nate Johnson, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council board president. “We've been waiting a very long time for this.”

Many Black St. Louisans have had to live through segregation, have been forced out of their homes by eminent domain or have experienced white families leaving their integrated neighborhoods in St. Louis County just because they moved in, said Will Jordan, the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council executive director.

He said the association's apology acknowledges the region’s racist past.

“That's significant for St. Louis, both emotionally to heal the hurt and spiritually to reverse the OK that had been given to do the things that we are saying no more,” Jordan said. “You can't heal a community if you don't acknowledge the wrongs that have been done.”

Berry said the apology can help create a pathway to closing the wealth gap by helping Black St. Louisans build financial equity through homeownership.

“We recognize that words are not enough to undo a decade of harm our communities suffered under the weight of financial oppression and inequality,” Berry said. “Changed behavior is the only way to demonstrate our commitment to fighting for fair housing and building trust with the Black community.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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