As Black History month comes to a close, I wanted to highlight some persons of great influence in the real estate and housing industry. Sadly, my profession does not have the best track record of fair opportunity to marginalized groups, which I will write about in April during Fair Housing month, but we have been and will continue to not only atone but to celebrate all that diversity has to offer. None of which could happen without the stellar efforts and passion of those we most dismissed. 

Philip A Payton was the first African American real estate broker, opening his practice in NYC in 1900. With the destruction of much of the African American communities located in central Manhattan, Mr. Payton recognized an opportunity for safe and attainable housing in Harlem, which had been being developed since the late 1880s. In 1904 he formed the Afro-American Realty Company with 9 other businessmen of color, providing safe and attainable rental housing within the community.  

In 1947, over 20 years before the Fair Housing Act was passed, a group of black practitioners founded The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), a trade organization seeking the advancement of fair and equal housing opportunities. It is still in existence today and welcomes people from all aspects of the real estate trade with the mission of bringing together the nation’s minority professionals and “promoting democracy in housing”.  

In 1966 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was formed, and the first Secretary was Dr. Robert C. Weaver. With his appointment to this revered position, he became the first black man in line for presidential succession. To this day the department continues its mission of “creating strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all”.   

These are just a few examples of what good can come from inclusion and innovation. I will continue to strive and promote the ideals our industry has come to adopt, expand, and defend for the betterment of our industry, our country, and our communities. 

Melissa Hornbeck
Broker, White Diamond Realty