San Antonio continues to be one of the hottest real estate markets in the United States. With a growing population and increased opportunities attracting job seekers from across the nation, buying a home continues to be the single best investment an individual can make.

According to the National Association of Realtors annual “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” first-time buyers made up 34 percent of the national market in 2017. The Texas Association of Realtors annual “Homebuyers and Sellers Report” found that in Texas “the share of first-time homebuyers increased from 30 percent to 32 percent.”

If you purchase an older home in one of San Antonio’s established neighborhoods, however, there’s a chance you’ll come across an ugly vestige of our city’s history in the closing process. That’s because the records for some homes contain decades-old racial, ethnic or religious deed restrictions.

These discriminatory restrictions were intended to keep certain groups — blacks, Hispanics, Jews and others — from living in some areas of the city. “No lot, tract, or resubdivision therof ,” reads one such restriction, “shall ever be sold, leased, demised or conveyed by deed, lease, gift or otherwise to Mexicans, Negroes, or persons of either Latin American or African descent.”

The U.S. Supreme Court rendered such shocking deed restrictions unenforceable by state and local courts in 1948. In practice, they continued in many places across the nation until the signing of the Fair Housing Act in 1968.

Throughout 2018, Realtors in San Antonio and across the nation are commemorating the 50th anniversary of this landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and national origin. We are also using the anniversary as an opportunity to raise public awareness about the continued importance of issues related to fair housing.

At the heart of our mission as Realtors is building community. In carrying out that mission, we are committed to upholding fair housing laws and offering equal professional service to everyone in search of a home or property.

NAR has a long-standing commitment to educating its members about the importance of inclusive housing practices and the promotion of diverse homeownership. As part of the yearlong recognition of the significance of the Fair Housing Act, NAR will be examining fair housing issues and advocating changes to the act that will include prohibitions of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

We can’t erase ugly deed restrictions from our county records, nor should we want to do so. Instead, we can learn from the mistakes of the past and use them as the basis for building a better future for our community. That’s why in 2018, NAR and its members are focusing on the organization’s changing role in fair housing, how the nation can improve its commitment to fair housing and the ways Realtors can lead efforts to address fair housing policy issues.

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act opened the door of home ownership to millions of Americans — including many here in San Antonio — who had previously been locked out of an essential part of the American dream. Fifty years later, Realtors are opening the door wider and continuing the fight for fair housing.

Lorena Peña is chair of the board of the San Antonio Board of Realtors.

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