IJ Doing Dirty Work For Realtors
By Tim Horvath

Using what I call ethnodemographics as a way to sell homes is a Civil Rights violation. Nevertheless, the IJ's Marin Homes Online website is doing just that. It comes with the ethnic breakdown of many Marin County towns, including Bolinas. This kind of demographic information is free for anyone to use except when it comes to advertising residential real estate. Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (aka Fair Housing Act) in part says the following: "It is illegal for anyone to advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap."

It is an old practice of real estate agents and home sellers to try and segregate communities by selling only to the 'right kind" of people. Many would also feel that the value of their homes would go up or down based on the predominate race of the residents of the community.

Buying and selling residential property based on race or color, even by subtle and/or covert means, is still perpetuating racism. The affect it has on society is insidious and long-term.

I contacted one of the participants of the website, Frank Howard Allen Realty. A representative of CEO and President Larry Bracket, who did not wish to make an official statement, returned my call and said that they did not in any way condone "steering" and that he had no idea that an ethnic breakdown was on the website. He said he would be calling the IJ Online manager, Leonard Sbrocco, to work on amending the situation. I commended him for wanting to rectify the situation. Finally, he said that someone may call me to make an official statement.

Sbrocco first argued that the information (ethnic breakdown) was on a separate page on the Marin Homes website. Later he said that the information was there to assist people in research. I believe that it was then that he realized how harmful that kind of research could be, and he pledged to talk to his publisher about removing the ethnic breakdown portion of the otherwise helpful demographic section of the site. Steering defined

Steering is a real estate ethics term that is defined in the Real Estate Fundamentals, Fourth Edition, by Wade E. Gaddy, Jr and Robert E. Hart, as the channeling of homeseekers to particular areas on the basis of race, religion, country of origin, or other protected class.

Steering causes social harm, defined by law: what happens when a family walks into a real estate office and gets steered into a neighborhood full of people of like color or religion or whatever. If people were allowed the power to steer families, they would also hold the power to segregate.

If you feel that this has happened to you, call your local HUD office.