As we commemorate Juneteenth and mark one year of increased focus on racial equity, let’s take a look at what our diversity, equity and inclusion goals really mean for the multifamily industry.
This June marks one year since our nation broke out in country-wide social unrest brought on by the killing of George Floyd—following hundreds of years of the unjust treatment of Black communities in the United States. In the shadow of tragedy and a nationwide call for action, we collectively commemorated Juneteenth through a different lens than years prior. On June 19, 2020, NMHC announced the closing of our office, declaring to membership we’d take this day to reflect. And then, we promised to do more. One year later, as we again commemorate Juneteenth and the country moves to recognize this day as a national holiday, I’d like to share the progress that has been made.
As I’ve previously shared, in response to the pain and uncertainty brought on by last summer’s events, many in our industry felt it was imperative to put words into action. It was time to move past speeches and op-eds—as well-meaning as they might be. We knew that change was mission critical for the future of our nation, but also for the future health and viability of our industry. We created a task force comprised of industry leaders in partnership with the Real Estate Executive Council to help explore how our industry and NMHC can take actionable steps to help diversify our industry and further support economic inclusion.
An initial goal of the task force was to identify common goals. After all, how can we expect anyone to read along if they don’t even know what page we’re on? From this idea, the NMHC Framework for Racial Equity and Inclusion was created to elevate a suite of industry goals and commitments to advance economic inclusion for commercial real estate professionals of color. These goals include expanding economic inclusion by hiring and partnering with minority-owned companies and those with racially diverse leadership; expanding access to capital and credit for firms owned by CRE professionals of color; and increasing the number of CRE professionals of color in senior leadership positions and throughout organizations. In addition to outlining three primary goals, the framework sets forth a number of recommended industry actions and NMHC-specific actions to execute those goals.
In the process of creating this framework, we’ve had the opportunity to take a look at what these diversity, equity and inclusion goals really mean for our industry. The answer is quite simple. It’s about growing a richer, more productive multifamily sector for the benefit of the entire industry. Whether you’re an investor measuring DEI as part of a company’s ESG initiative, you’re a hiring manager looking to recruit the best and brightest, or you’re a developer pushing back on discriminatory exclusionary zoning policies that inhibit development, our industry benefits when the playing field is leveled.
To that end, you may have heard that we are working on two new resources to help advance the goals outlined in the industry framework. Our current internal focus centers on breaking down one key challenge: Ensuring the long-term success for the industry relative to all of its stakeholders—apartment firms and employees, residents, and members of Congress and the Administration.
To directly impact the outcomes on an enterprise and community level, we are creating a toolkit of best practices for integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into all facets of the talent ecosystem, as well as supplier diversity. Although we know that addressing DEI within your company will certainly result in a more inclusive community for your residents, we also understand that many of you are in search of tools to help directly impact their outcomes within your communities.
We are also creating a housing equity and opportunity roadmap that will serve different needs for different segments of our membership and help you create more prosperous communities. We know that for some, addressing equity and opportunity simply won’t be feasible in certain respects. But for others, the resource will help guide you through incremental steps toward bringing equity and opportunity considerations into your investment or development decisions.
Our residents are key to the success and ongoing health of our industry, which is why we feel it’s important to work to improve equity and opportunity in a way that can mutually benefit owners, developers and residents. Opportunity is critical—the opportunity for us to access viable capital and credit options; the opportunity for us to have the option to build in all types of communities; the opportunity for us to maintain safe, thriving apartment homes; and the opportunity for all of our residents to make housing decisions based on their families’ needs and budget.
Just as our industry has increased focus on these important issues over the last year, so has Congress. NMHC serves as the primary voice of the industry on Capitol Hill on all issues—from housing affordability to tax reform and everything in between. For the last several years, we’ve ensured that our advocacy actions reflect our DEI goals and that’s certainly not going to change. We will continue to educate members of Congress on the important role our industry plays in creating and preserving communities where all have the opportunity to thrive.
We understand each company’s decision to move forward with various DEI initiatives is dependent on a wide array of internal decisions and directives. However, we want to meet you wherever you are in your journey. As we develop and release these resources, please keep in mind they are not intended to be prescriptive or force your hand. Rather, as a leading voice in the multifamily industry, we simply hope to elevate these goals and engage with willing partners to help accomplish them.
Our goal is to consider DEI in everything we do—from government affairs and research, to public affairs and membership and events. And with any luck, we hope integrating this work into our DNA will help elevate these goals and inspire you to do the same. So, one year ago we promised you we’d do more. Although the work is nowhere near complete, I’m proud of the progress our industry has made and hopeful for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future.
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