Affordable Housing Expo Recap: Driving Change

February 1, Georgios BanquetsAs the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® Affordable Housing Expo came to this year’s close one final panel took the stage and promotea recurring theme of the day: “Driving Change.” The last panel was the largest one yet welcoming six panelists. Each of the speakers on the stage represented a different voice within their respected communities. The common thread weaving them together echoed the panels’ title, as all six representatives are committed to bringing affordable housing to people of all backgrounds 

The first panelist to discuss their organization and their mission statement was Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) National President Mr. Kurt Nishimura. His platform at the Affordable Housing Expo was to promote the changes made to the United States Census Bureau’s Quarterly Reports on Homeownership. One of his points of emphasis was about how important it is to be counted. “Our biggest win to date in our 20-year history was the ‘No Other’ Campaign. It used to be that in the report there was no Asian box to check [when filling out census reporting in real estate]. So unfortunately, we had to pick the box that said other. When you are not accurately counted, you are not represented.” As a direct result of the ‘No Other’ Campaign legislature has since been passed and a box for Asian people is now mandatory on the U.S. Quarterly Report for Homeownership 

Following panelist Kurt Nishimura was Mr. Patrick Lynch, President of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance in Chicago. He reiterated the struggle within the LGBTQ+ community to be counted appropriately and accurately in the real estate quarterly census. Mr. Nishimura cited the historical lack of a box applicable to Asian representation; the LGBTQ+ community has seen the same vacancy in the real estate quarterly report for homeownership. Mr. Lynch pivoted, drawing attention to the lack of affordable housing available in the LGBTQ+ society. More specifically, he pointed out rising youth homelessness rates. Mr. Lynch on the rising concern for homelessness in LGBTQ+ youth: “LGBTQ+ homelessness amongst the youth is growing at an alarming rate. As you know the last few years have emboldened some people to speak out against or act against people who they don’t agree with. Homelessness is something we plan to identify new ways for us to reach out to those communities including those outside of Chicago.”  

Roughly 10 minutes into “Driving Change” a third spokesperson was called on to speak on behalf of their community. Ms. Gwen Newton is the Dearborn Realtist President and her platform was erasing restrictions or bias in real estate. She specifically took aim at equal housing, equal opportunity and fairness throughout the black community. Ms. Newton briefly addressed the specific changes Dearborn Realists are actively advocating for. The list included topics like credit score bias, higher interest rates based on financial stability and appraisal unfairness. She disclosed to the audience her presidential term was nearing its end but the passion in her work is very much alive. Ms. Newton told the crowd of 200 + attendees, “So as long as I am breathing, I will be advocating in this space. It has been my honor to advocate for the black community here and across the nation.” 

Halfway through the first round of questions for the panelists the moderator turned their attention towards Mr. Paul ChawlaDirector of the Association of South Asian Real Estate Professionals (ASARP). Mr. Chawla clarified for the audience that ASARP is more diverse than just a collective group of REALTORS®. Among their members are banking professionals, financial advisors, construction workers, foremen, contractors and lawyers like himself. He went on to explain the mission behind ASARP, stating …A lot of what ASARP has done is to educate our builders, our contractors. You need to look to diversify as to your spectrum of who you’re addressing on your building needs. The city is going to demand it depending on the site and size of the project. Additionally, ordinances and regulations will change from one place to another.” 

The Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® Affordable Housing Expo arrived at their fifth panelist of “Driving Change” and welcomed National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) DuPage County President Mabel Guzman. In cooperation with other speakers at the event Ms. Guzman shined a light on what NAHREP is, who comprises their membership and what the organization does for their communities. She also pointed out the sheer size of NAHREP with 40,000 members nationwide and over 200 chapters across 48 states. When discussing how to get involved, Ms. Guzman had a clear message, You may not like politics but they are happening to you anyways. So, it is best to be engaged, go to your community meetings, be part of a solution and understand what is happening so you can use your voice.” 

Joe Berrios was the sixth and final panelist to be introduced at the Affordable Housing Expo, representing National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) as the Lake County Treasurer. Mr. Berrios, like Ms. Guzman, advocates for the Hispanic community, citing his plans for a trip to Washington D.C. He explained to the crowd why making the trip to D.C. is so important, with the help of other NAHREP members fighting for homeownership rights and equality. As part of his platform’s explanation Mr. Berrios shined a light on a demographic measurement: age. “The average age of our members in the organization, is probably about in their 30’s. We are a young group of people but we are diverse professionals in our roles; it is not just REALTORS®. We need you guys to get involved and use your voice.” 

The 2023 Affordable Housing Expo was an all-day event with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. and the final thought presented by CEO John Gormley at 4:00 p.m. Throughout the day real estate professionals from all over and vendors mingled and networked in the ballroom, showing their products and offering their services to attendees. Many Americans feel they cannot afford to buy a house or condominium. This event provided education and resources to contradict that theory as well as provide direct paths to homeownership.  Organizations like AREAA, ASARP Dearborn Realtists, NAHREP and the LQBTQ+ Alliance are designed to understand the barriers that communities face and work to break down those barriers to help anyone and everyone start the journey to their dream home.  

This is the third blog post in a three-part series. Click here to read the other two posts and other blog entries on Maisntreet Buzz. 

Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® headquarters in Downers Grove and is the largest real estate association in Illinois with over 20,000 members. If you were unable to attend this year’s Affordable Housing Expo but want to browse upcoming events, please click here to see our Courses and Events calendar.