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St. Louis real estate industry reckons with its racist past

The St. Louis Realtors Association issued a public apology at Harris-Stowe State University in 2022 for its role in housing discrimination toward Black families in the St. Louis region.
David Kovaluk
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St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Realtors Association issued a public apology at Harris-Stowe State University in 2022 for its role in housing discrimination toward Black families in the St. Louis region.

White people in St. Louis are nearly twice as likely as Black people to own homes. Discriminatory practices like redlining and restrictive covenants have long created a dual housing market for white and Black families — and despite those practices becoming illegal, 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.

Nate Johnson and Will Jordan
Emily Woodbury
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Nate Johnson, left, is the board president of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council. Will Jordan, right, is the organization's executive director.

Acknowledgment of both past and current wrongs came in the form of an apology by the St. Louis Realtors Association in 2022. In September, the organization published a letter apologizing to Black people in the region for its role in practicing housing discrimination and implementing racist housing policies for decades.

“We have a long history in St. Louis, and quite frankly, nationwide, of Realtors having discriminatory practices towards people of color,” Nate Johnson, board president of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council told St. Louis on the Air. “I think that it's really powerful that our association was one of the first associations to get out and say, ‘Hey, we know that we did some things wrong, a lot of things wrong, and we're working to correct this.’”

For Will Jordan, executive director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, Realtors play an important role in getting families to a place where they can build generational wealth through homeownership.

“It’s all about wealth building. It's about the same young people that you see in the streets today, that you think are problematic. If they had the opportunities that were based upon wealth that had been built in their families for generations, then you would see them with businesses rather than with criminal records,” Jordan said. “Families with home ownership — the outcomes are completely different for them.”

Will Jordan and Nate Johnson join St. Louis on the Air

Johnson joined Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air alongside Will Jordan to discuss the factors limiting Black homeownership in the region — and what's being done today to eliminate disparities.

“The Realtors Association is a great example, and I hope to see other associations, other professional trades [follow suit],” Jordan said.

“We work with the banks quite a bit — never any apologies given," he added. "The appraisal industry? No apologies given. I don't even know if they even take responsibility for some of the stuff that has happened in St. Louis, but I can tell you, there's a big red arrow pointing at them.”

Have you faced housing discrimination in St. Louis? Send an email to talk@stlpr.org, or leave us a voicemail at 314-516-6397 and help inform our coverage.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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