Why diversity, equity and inclusion matter in housing


This month marked the first celebration of Juneteenth as a national holiday, the day enslaved people in Texas learned that slavery had been outlawed in the United States. It’s also Pride Month, where we commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969 and recognize the struggles and impact the LGBTQ community and individuals have had in the world. Though most people don’t associate housing with these commemorations, real estate is one of the most important tools in the promotion (or undermining) of equity in our country.

The National Association of Realtor’s equal housing opportunity acknowledges that the purchase of a home is one of the most significant events an individual will experience in their lifetime. It directly impacts a person’s financial destiny. According to studies by the Rainbow Center in Tacoma and Transequality.org, the LGBTQ community experiences a higher rate of homelessness and intersecting forms of discrimination “which can threaten their personal safety, housing security, employment, health care, and destroy family bonds.”

Through systemic racist practices in real estate such as redlining, people of color have also experienced housing discrimination. At Thurston County Chamber’s 116th Annual Meeting this month, Laura Choi, VP of Community Development of the Federal Reserve National Bank of San Francisco, described how in the 1930s and 40s, redlining maps were used to determine the relative credit risk of a neighborhood. If the neighborhood was deemed high risk, it was marked in red.

These maps justified the denial of federally backed mortgages to borrowers in these neighborhoods. They propelled an ongoing cycle of disinvestment and decline in the area with massive implications for neighborhood segregation and economic opportunity. Americans hold much of their wealth in housing and historic policies like redlining have impacted intergenerational wealth. In 2019, the median wealth for white households was about eight times that of black households.

Why is it important to close this gap? Ms. Choi went on to state that people of color are projected to become the majority of our population in the coming decades according to the national equity atlas. Disparities in education, employment and real estate have important implications for the economy. “If we don’t attend to these gaps and close them, we risk leaving significant talent on the sidelines which can impact our overall economic performance,” Ms. Choi explains.

To illustrate that point, the Fed conducted a thought experiment and asked: “How much have persistent gender and racial inequalities in the labor market opportunities and outcomes cost the US in foregone GDP?” Through data simulation, they discovered that if we had closed the gaps 30 years ago we could have produced an additional $70 trillion in GDP.

Historic patterns of discrimination are not only harming families and individuals who deserve the same chance at homeownership and the quality of life it can support. They are holding back our entire economy. Individuals and business leaders alike can make choices that support a more equitable economic landscape by supporting minority-owned businesses, supporting diversity among leadership, suppliers, and employees, and helping people of color and members of the LGBTQ community broaden their networks.

Holistic Home Group is proud to be one of the many groups of Washington Realtors® committed to increasing equity in housing. Whoever you choose to work with, make sure they are aware of the responsibility they have to this commitment. As we like to say in our office, “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

See Mapping Inequality – you can see old maps for Tacoma, Seattle and other places

Kristy Woodford is CEO of Holistic Home Group, which is affiliated with Keller Williams South Sound. She has over ten years of experience as a broker of residential real estate in Thurston County and leads a team of realtors experienced in serving local buyers and sellers.  Contact her at  360-508-2800 or write to KWoodford@kw.com.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here