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Bias training proposed for realtors

Realtors may be looking at two hours of additional implicit bias training as part of their license renewal process.

State Sen. Anna Kaplan, D-Carle Place, recently introduced S.8986 in the Senate to amend the state Real Property Tax Law.

Currently, licensees must attend at least 22.5 hours of training as part of their bi-annual license renewal, including three hours of instruction pertaining to fair housing. The legislation would increase the total to 24.5 hours to accommodate the additional instruction in implicit bias, which is not presently covered by existing fair housing education mandates.

Kaplan cited a Sept. 17 story in Newsday titled “Long Island Divided” that laid blame for housing discrimination in explicit and implicit bias in the real estate industry. The newspaper series reported that some real estate agents on Long Island were steering clients toward certain neighborhoods based on perceived race or ethnicity.

As a response, Nassau County appointed a special housing counsel, pledged increased enforcement of open housing laws, strengthened the Nassau County Human Rights Commission and established a Fair Housing Advisory Board. Suffolk County hired an outside agency to test for housing discrimination, strengthened the county’s Human Rights Commission and began raising awareness about fair housing laws.

The state Senate held joint hearings in Nassau County on housing discrimination. It was after those hearings that Kaplan wrote her legislation.

“Today’s hearing made it very clear that we still have a long way to go in addressing the problems uncovered in Newsday’s “Long Island Divided” investigation. I was shocked by how many witnesses testified sincerely that they had no discriminatory intent in their conduct, yet they engaged in blatantly discriminatory conduct that perpetuates division and does harm to our communities. I believe these individuals lack an understanding of their own implicit biases, and it underscores the need for better education and training for all realtors and brokers,” Kaplan said.

The Natioanl Association of Realtors earlier this year began circulating a new 50-minute implicit bias training video to its members and association staff. Vince Malta, NAR president, said the video draws upon recent research to illustrate how the human brain’s automatic, instant association of stereotypes with particular groups can cause people to treat those who are different from them unfairly. Scientific evidence also suggests these biases persist despite people’s best intentions and often without conscious awareness.

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