Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Szto on Real Estate Agents as Agents of Social Change

Mary Szto, Hamline University School of Law, has posted Real Estate Agents as Agents of Social Change: Redlining, Reverse Redlining, and Greenlining, which appeared in the Seattle Journal for Social Justice 1 11 (2013): 1.  Here is the abstract:
This article examines the role of US real estate agents in redlining, reverse redlining, and greenlining practices. Redlining was the practice of the Federal government, private banks, and other institutions to deny credit to neighborhoods based on race. Reverse redlining is marketing inferior credit and other products to those same neighborhoods. Greenlining is incenting investment in previously redlined neighborhoods. This article argues that although many real estate agents used practices that unjustly excluded access to neighborhoods, all can be faithful agents of inclusion to global, flourishing communities. That is, while real estate agents took leading roles in redlining and reverse redlining in the past, they can now lead in greenlining efforts. Moreover, those who want to effect greater access to global flourishing communities should consider becoming real estate agents.

1 comment:

Shag from Brookline said...

I began my law practice in the Boston area in the mid 1950s and handled my share of real estate transactions, including dealing with real estate brokers. While I had negative views of such brokers, I was shocked by the vivid history in this paper. Boston went through redlining and blockbusting in a significant way; several interesting books were written on the subject. They were not pretty.

In 1998, I went into semi-retirement after closing my law office. I never enjoyed handling residential real estate transactions because of so much subjectivity of all parties, whether selling or buying a home. Doing the job in a proper manner called for more hours than were billable to the client, especially a buyer. So I was glad that I would no longer gets calls to handle such transactions. (Commercial real estate, however, was quite different, and palatable to billable hours.)

Then in the early 2000s, I became aware via radio and TV of No Document mortgage loans, which translated into subprime mortgages that this important paper also covers, which contributed to the Bush/Cheney 2007-8 Great Recession. Yes, real estate brokers/agents, mortgage brokers, etc, were part and parcel of this. But so was the legal profession, as real estate transactions involve the need for legal services. Perhaps a further study by the author might focus on the failings of the legal profession in contributing to the issues raised in her paper.

As for the author's hope that real estate brokers/agents will take up "Greenlining," I have serious doubts. I can't imagine many brokers/agents signing the proposed "Letter of Healing and Hope" set forth in Appendix I.

The author is to be congratulated for providing the history of real estate brokers/agents. As I noted earlier, it was worse than I thought and experienced.