Fannie Mae Speaker Series Tackles a Forgotten History
On Monday, Jan. 21, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fight for civil rights and equal justice for all Americans. Dr. King's assassination provided an impetus for Congress to adopt the Fair Housing Act of 1968. While the act prohibited discrimination in housing, vestiges of housing discrimination remain today. To better understand this problem, I read The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, a book that reveals how federal government policies have helped reinforce residential racial segregation.
I was ecstatic to hear Richard Rothstein speak at the inaugural Fannie Mae in:house speaker series on Jan. 17, hosted by Jeff Hayward, Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae's Multifamily Mortgage Business. Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute and has extensive experience researching disparities in America – from education to residential housing. Like many Fannie Mae employees and invited guests, I was in awe of Rothstein's ability to paint a crisp picture of the history of residential racial segregation and the federal government’s role in creating a racially segregated country, impacting educational outcomes, and establishing economic barriers to success by strategic redlining. He spoke contemporaneously about the book, and passionately shared facts, examples, and touching stories to illustrate how destinies can be dictated by our zip codes. After Rothstein's remarks, Jeff Hayward led a conversation with him to discuss some of the key recommendations made in the book.
Rothstein later discussed the importance of not only enforcing the Fair Housing Act, but also challenging practices that may limit the effectiveness of the Act. At Fannie Mae, we take this challenge seriously. I am thankful to lead our Fair Lending Group, which promotes the importance of the Fair Housing Act by reviewing our practices, policies, and models, and providing training to make sure that we are not only complying with the letter but also encompassing the spirit of the Act. Given our role in the housing market, my team works to safeguard mortgage practices from unintended discrimination, and we are fortunate to work in a culture where employees make fair lending in housing a priority.
At Fannie Mae, we are committed to helping families across the country own or rent an affordable place to call home. I'm excited that we now have the Fannie Mae in:house series, which allows us to invite guests to our D.C. headquarters to talk about the challenging issues that we face in housing. By creating a space, such as Fannie Mae in:house, for employees to take a step back and explore solutions, we can continue to make living in an affordable home a reality for more Americans.
Vice President and Fair Lending Officer
February 1, 2019