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Realtors, HUD Agree on Test for Racial Bias

May 13, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The National Assn. of Realtors today agreed to support a federal program using "testers" to visit home sales and rental agents to ensure they are not discriminating against minorities.

As recently as May 2, the 700,000-member group testified against the proposal on Capitol Hill.

Clark E. Wallace, the association president, said the change in stance was brought about by an agreement on guidelines with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel R. Pierce Jr.

Pierce had opposed the guidelines as unnecessary.

The guidelines "remove the possibility of improper leverage or pressure by tester groups on those tested through solicitations of funds or other forms of intimidation," a Realtors fact sheet said.

'The idea is not to allow any extortion," said Pierce's executive assistant, Deborah Dean, a key negotiator during the drafting of the standards.

Procedure for Testing

As used by a number of fair housing groups, "testing" consists of sending individuals or couples who are essentially the same except for race to attempt to buy or rent a house or apartment.

If the minority tester is not given the same chance to take the home as the white tester, that action can be used in court against the real estate agent or other person who refused to deal fairly.

The guidelines, which the Realtors refused to release, "ensure that only objective, reliable and controlled testing will be funded by HUD," Pierce and Wallace said in a letter they sent to congressional committee chairmen.

Dean said the money sought for testing, a portion of an overall $7-million fair-housing initiative program, will pay for about 10,000 tests a year.

Wallace said the association was steadfast in its opposition to testing without clear-cut guidelines because it feared less scrupulous fair-housing groups would try to sell local real estate groups plaques, educational programs or other "services" as a price for not testing in an area.

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