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What’s Fair For Housing Is Fair For The USA

Our Federal anti-discrimination laws were created to prohibit prejudice against those tenants who, for any number of inappropriate reasons, were rejected by landlords. Frequently these prospective tenants felt powerless in the face of this discrimination, because they perceived themselves to be too small or unimportant to be protected by the “System.” And too often, before fair housing laws came into being, they were right.

If I did in our housing market what the government is doing at the airports, I would lose my license and be subject to prosecution and fines. In fact, I have devoted my career to attempting to do precisely the opposite. It’s a source of great pride to me that I have consistently used my expertise to get the Sephardic family, or the black family, or the gay couple, into the co-op of their choosing. I refuse to let Warburg be a gatekeeper; our job as agents (and, in my opinion, Americans) is to break down these barriers rather than uphold or enable them.

At the federal level, fair housing laws enjoin discrimination against prospective tenants on the basis of, among other things, “race, color, creed, or national origin.” As real estate agents, we must pay particular care in the advertising language we use to make certain no protected group feel excluded. New York has its own stringent fair housing laws — here in the Big Apple we are also prohibited from taking marital status or sexual orientation into consideration. In other words, a law abiding legal resident with decent credit and an adequate bank balance can’t legally be stopped from renting or purchasing a home because they are African American, or gay, or Jewish, or from Syria.

So how is it that we acknowledge this need for protection for residents of our country,

but have a different standard for those who would enter it? How does a sitting President “prioritize” Christians over Muslims? Haven’t we seen too many times, and to our national detriment, the terrible drawbacks of prejudice and how it creates a cancer on the body politic? Are the flames being fanned here in keeping Muslims from war-ravaged countries out of our immigration pipeline so different from those which resulted in the lynching of Emmet Till or the bombing murder of three young black girls in Alabama? Are they so different from the decision to turn away the St. Louis during World War II, condemning a boatload of innocent Jews to the gas chambers because isolationist elements in this country believed that there might be anarchists or Communists among them?

I am of Jewish, German, and Irish descent. My wife, who came to America with her family seeking greater opportunity at the age of ten, is Anglo Irish and Italian. Almost all of these groups — the Irish, the Italians, the Jews — were denied opportunity in this country when they first arrived. But at least they arrived! The gates to America were always open and hard work and education really DID enable one immigrant group after another to change their life circumstances and become, wherever they originated, Americans. When I look at the roster of residents of my building, or agents and employees of my company, I see last names from every continent and so many ethnic groups that it makes me proud. Gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim — they are just Americans, my neighbors, my colleagues, my family.

An admired friend posted the below on Saturday to Facebook:

“Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me;

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Offer expires in 2017

We can’t reject tenants or buyers because they are Syrian, or Iraqi, or Muslim. Isn’t what’s good enough for the housing market good enough for the USA?

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Warburg Realty CEO Frederick Peters excites and informs us with his unique blend of personal and professional insight on topics ranging from market conditions to the emotional resonance of home.

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