Past, Present & Future: Reflecting on 50 Years of the Fair Housing Act | Chicago Association of REALTORS®

In 1968, President Johnson declared that “Fair housing for all, all human beings who live in this country, is now a part of the American way of life.” But Chicago’s history with fair housing is long and complex. Our association’s is, as well.

The following was delivered by CAR President Tommy Choi, with the unanimous support of our Board of Directors at October’s Fair Housing event:

Chicago and Illinois have played a central role – both in the history of discrimination and in continuing efforts to ensure fair housing for all.

Housing discrimination and segregated housing patterns were no accident. Our industry – brokers and agents, property managers, lenders, local governments and many community institutions, engaged in discriminatory zoning, neighborhood classifications, restrictive covenants and more, to define and allow racial boundaries in our city. Many of these same institutions interfered with the ability of women, people with disabilities, families with children and the LGBTQ population from buying, renting and otherwise enjoying the benefits of private property and the place to live of their choice.

Locally and nationally, our association was on the wrong side of history. We opposed fair housing laws and defended the right of property owners to discriminate as to who could buy property, even as our nation woke up to the great need for laws prohibiting discrimination in housing and as the Chicago Freedom Movement challenged our city to embrace open housing. We closed the door to African Americans and others based on race and created a dual housing market: one for white Chicago and one for black and minority Chicago.

Historically, our commitment to equality in housing has been found wanting. For these past actions in the opposition to fairness and equality by the association we now lead, we have profound regret. To those of you in the audience and throughout our city who have been and continue to be impacted by this history and its effects, on behalf of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® and myself, we are sorry. We are sorry for the legacy and its impact on our city.

Today, we find ourselves in stark contrast to that legacy. Our officers include myself, a president of Asian descent, a president elect, treasurer and CEO who are African American, and a board whose diversity reflects all the diversity in our great city. We are challenged with – and determined to – work with the city, and with you, to dismantle the constructs that perpetuate segregation in Chicago and work to ensure fair housing for all our citizens.

We are committed to this cause. We hope you’ll join us.

As REALTORS®, you are the boots on the ground. Change truly starts with you. If you see a violation, call it out. Encourage your clients, friends and peers to report violations – either to our organization, or to the Chicago Commission on Human Rights. The more violations that are reported, the better the chance of that violation not re-occurring.


With the support and guidance of several of our Industry Partners, we plan to work together to implement solutions and enforce policies and penalties for fair housing. Going forward, you will see new initiatives from CAR to help bring forth these changes.

  • Hosting the NAR certification, At Home with Diversity on January 25, free for CAR members, while space allows.
  • Forming a Diversity Committee to gather representatives from all of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, to ensure all areas of our city are represented and in conversation about housing issues.
  • Planning a special program in April to reinforce our commitment to this cause. It will be a thoughtful discussion. Details to come.

As REALTORS®, we have the unique opportunity to continue to be the force pushing the right side of history moving forward. We thank you for your support.


Our Industry Partners presented Matt Difanis, RE/MAX Realty Associates in Champaign and Immediate Past President of the Illinois REALTORS®, with the first-ever Industry Partners TITAN Award.

The TITAN Award recognizes REALTORS® who show an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion, through staffing, client-relations and support of fellow colleagues, to ensure an equitable buying and selling process in Chicago’s real estate market and beyond. Congratulations Matt!


We thank the following dignitaries & legislators for their support of the

  • Representative Danny Davis
  • U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth
  • Alderman Brian Hopkins
  • Representative Robin Kelly
  • Alderman Joe Moore
  • Representative Bobby Rush
  • Cook County Bureau of Economic Development Deputy Bureau Chief Jay Stewart

Watch videos from the event, including a history of fair housing in Chicago, and hear stories from Chicago REALTORS® who have experienced fair housing violations.