Lydia Pope, who leads the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, discusses narrowing the racial gap in homeownership and opening doors for Black agents
As president of the nation’s oldest trade association for Black real estate professionals, Lydia Pope said she keeps her focus on the organization’s mission: “democracy in housing.”
“Now, what does that mean to real estate professionals? What does it mean to the consumer? It means that our goal is to make sure that we, number one, narrow the racial gap in homeownership,” Pope said. “African Americans should have an opportunity to buy a home, no matter the location.”
Pope discussed the vision of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, which was founded in 1947, her commitment to supporting affordable homeownership, and the inspiration for her own career in real estate, which spans nearly three decades.
“Our goal is equal housing. It’s about making sure that we have the right to do the right thing,” Pope told Real Estate News. “We want to make sure that as real estate practitioners we’re given the same rights when it comes to purchasing properties, when it comes to selling properties for our clients and showing properties.”
After real estate groups in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Chicago apologized in October for past discriminatory practices — including supporting restrictive covenants and redlining — Pope challenged the industry to “do better” and put their words into action.
“Now, it’s all about where to go from here,” said Pope, noting that her knowledge and activism were borne from her own difficulties in buying a home many years ago. “When I went to buy my home, the agent just took me to a neighborhood that I did not want to be in. He didn’t give me a choice,” she said.
“That’s why I got my real estate license. I said, ‘Well, you know, I’m going to learn how to do this myself, because I should be able to live wherever I want to live,’” Pope said.
Pope, the third woman to lead NAREB, is making affordable homeownership a priority, which feels even more urgent during this time of stubbornly high home prices and rising interest rates. Many consumers are being locked out of the market and don’t feel like they have any options.
NAREB’s initiatives in 2022 have included community days, when the organization provides free credit counseling and education about home purchases and loans through a HUD-approved counseling agency.
Encouraging homeownership among Black women is a specific area of focus, Pope said. NAREB offers financial literacy courses specifically geared to African American women. “One of the highest target markets when it comes to loan level pricing and discrimination has historically been against Black women,” she said. “So we educate the community about the tools they need, so they know how to go to lenders and how to talk with them.”
These initiatives are ultimately good for agents and brokers too. “We are teaching our Black community about the services out there. And that helps NAREB members because they get the leads that help them to sell homes,” she said.
“These are services that a new agent can take advantage of … Those services not only help agents to grow their wealth, but they also help the Black community,” Pope said.
Pope wants to see the industry as a whole — brokers, agents, property managers, appraisers and others — better represented by Black professionals. She considers making connections, providing education and supporting Black agents and associates essential to success.
“As the largest and oldest Black real estate trade group in this country, we get to network with thousands of Black real estate practitioners,” she said. “And people new to the business who are members get an opportunity to be able to learn and glean and find that mentor within the organization,” she said.
NAREB’s networking efforts extend to college campuses. In late November, NAREB will host an educational summit at Howard University, a historically Black college in Washington, D.C. “To have a career in real estate is one of the best fields you can ever be in, but [young people] need to know about it,” she said.
Pope hearkens to lessons from the past as she reaches out to future generations. “A reason why we formed in the beginning was to make sure that Blacks have the right and privilege — to be able to not just buy and sell properties, but also the privilege to be educated in the real estate field, whether they are a consumer or an agent or a licensee,” she said. “So we open up the doors to our organization, to all our conferences.”