Homeownership: A simple word that can mean so much to so many.

For nearly a century, homeownership has been associated with the definition of the “American Dream.”

Illinois REALTORS® believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve that American Dream and that REALTORS® are the key to making homeownership happen. These principles are the cornerstone of Illinois REALTORS’® “Everyone Deserves the American Dream” campaign, which reclaims the ideal of the “American Dream” as a dream available to all Americans, recommits the significance of homeownership to the concept and celebrates the essential role that REALTORS® play in achieving it.

Over the course of the next year, Illinois REALTORS® will assist you in trying to unlock the dream for your clients who may find the doors closed to them—people with credit issues who may be afraid to get started, owners who want to sell but are worried about the right timing and people of color who haven’t had the same access to federal assistance, mortgage lending and other programs.

REALTORS® aren’t just the voice of real estate in Illinois, they are also problem solvers who want to make a difference.

As an organization that promotes the values of homeownership and real estate investment, it is important that everything we do helps ensure that EVERYONE has the opportunity to own a home regardless of where they live, their historical socio-economic background or their ethnicity. The American Dream has always been associated with homeownership and as an ideal, it has never been envisioned as a goal limited only to certain groups of people. Our mission is to fight to make the Dream a real opportunity for everyone.


Homeownership is more than just having a place to call one’s own. It’s a place where you have the autonomy to paint the walls if you want, plant a garden, renovate a floorplan and give a property your own stamp.

Homeownership is a financial investment, a place to build equity and for many, a place to grow generational stability and wealth. But just as importantly, high rates of homeownership correlate to more neighborhood stability, economic opportunity and educational achievement. Homeownership then is both a goal and a promise to ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.

But that promise of homeownership and all that it brings haven’t always been available to all Americans equally.

For too long, certain populations have faced unnecessary and in too many cases, outright criminal hurdles to homeownership, particularly people of color and those with lower incomes who have often found ownership out of reach.

The net worth of a typical homeowner is 40 times that of a renter, the National Association of REALTORS® reports in its 2021 Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America. But the ability to build wealth through homeownership falters across racial lines. That same NAR report finds that the typical White family has a net worth of $188,200, nearly eight times greater than the net worth of a typical Black family at $24,100.

How did we get here?

The disparities in homeownership across racial lines have been years in the making dating back to slavery, internment, Jim Crow laws, redlining, restrictive covenants and more.

In the 1930s as the U.S. struggled to boost homeownership following the Great Depression, the federal government enacted a series of programs aimed at helping more people buy homes through financing and mortgages. But those gains were primarily only extended to White Americans.

That’s because when federal agencies graded neighborhoods based on perceived loan risk, they considered not just the age of buildings and economic class but also the racial makeup of that community. Neighborhoods with Black residents got a lower rating, making it harder for them to secure the financing they needed to buy a home.

Federal agencies marked those “loan risk” areas in red, creating the concept of redlining. At the same time, some communities together with the cooperation of lenders, local governments, real estate brokers, and even law enforcement created both implicit and explicit restrictive covenants and practices that prohibited certain people of color or social economic status from buying in certain neighborhoods.

REALTORS® aren’t just the voice of real estate in Illinois, they are also problem solvers who want to make a difference.

All of that has culminated in an American Dream of homeownership that has not been equally accessible to all Americans.

Today the White homeownership rate in Illinois is 73 percent compared to 39 percent for Black homeowners, 55 percent for Hispanic homeowners and 62 percent for Asian homeowners. The picture is similar on the federal level.

Improvements made, but more must be done

The path to making the dream of homeownership realistic for more Americans has not been perfect, but some advancements have been made, most notably the passage more than 50 years ago of the federal Fair Housing Act. The Act put fair housing laws—and penalties—in place prohibiting discrimination in the sale, leasing or rental of housing.

The pursuit of fair housing has since become a core REALTOR® value that isn’t just embodied in fair housing principles but also in the REALTOR® Code of Ethics all pledge to follow. REALTORS’® pride in our mission to make the American Dream available to ALL Americans compels us to not just live by these principles and Code but to actively root out any remaining vestiges of the harmful practices we’re adamantly against.

In partnership with REALTORS® in Illinois and nationally, industry partner groups have been grown to strengthen the profile of and heighten attention on fair housing issues and bridging the racial homeownership gap.

Some recent examples of their efforts include the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), which successfully lobbied Congress and the U.S. Census Bureau to create a unique category on census forms for Asian Americans and Pacific Islander homeownership through its “No Other” campaign. The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) has advocated across the country for more equal access to credit, increasing housing inventory and immigration reform. And the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) has focused on increasing awareness of the systemic financial barriers Black consumers face when buying a home and have created a campaign to grow Black homeownership by the millions in only the next 10 years.

Illinois REALTORS® has been at the forefront of this fight and recent efforts show our continued commitment to the goals of increasing affordability, opportunity and equity in housing. After decades of marginalization by Illinois’ elected leaders, Illinois’ housing stock is at an all-time low, which has squeezed the affordable housing sector harder than ever. This spring, Illinois REALTORS® helped develop statewide incentives to spur new affordable housing development and which were part of an Affordable Housing Omnibus Package recently signed into law. While federal and state laws have long banned discrimination in every part of a housing transaction, evidence of discrimination in the appraisal process continues to make headlines. In response, Illinois REALTORS® created its Discriminatory Appraisals Task Force and charged it with not just studying the issue but with coming up with concrete proposals to eliminate the illegal conduct once and for all. In less than a year’s time, the task force has not only produced guidance for REALTORS® and their clients who encounter this practice but has also developed policy solutions that are being presented to lawmakers both in Illinois and in Congress.

New challenges to homeownership

While it would seem most would agree that creating more affordable, accessible housing is a shared goal, there are emerging obstacles that are making homeownership even more elusive. In fact, there are increasing numbers of policy proposals in Illinois that would effectively cancel the American Dream of homeownership for any who have not already achieved it. Efforts such as the push by tenant groups to delay or even cancel rent have gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eviction moratoriums, initially created as millions of workers lost income during work stoppages have stretched to more than a year. This is even as states lifted workplace restrictions and reopened their economies, further straining the resources of housing providers, who were already targets for anti-housing advocates.

The economic climate has also emboldened rent control advocates to push to end the nearly 25-year-old ban on rent control in Illinois. This is despite evidence that rent control efforts in cities such as San Francisco and New York City have exacerbated the affordable housing crisis.

Both state and local elected leaders have worked through building and zoning codes to gut the new home construction industry in Illinois, making construction of new affordable housing nearly impossible. Census Bureau data shows, for example, that Illinois has fallen to almost last place in the country for new homes being built over the course of the last 10 years. These restrictive policies are layered with discriminatory development incentives in larger metro areas that encourage segregation and fuel the racial wealth and homeownership gap.

Regulatory clusters, or collections of state and local regulations on private property owners, like eviction and municipal inspection ordinances seek to delegitimize private property rights. All together, these policies reduce housing stock, increase property taxes, and create an ever-growing, permanent class of individuals who cannot achieve the dream of homeownership.

REALTORS® are the key to everyone reaching the American Dream of homeownership

Working to make sure everyone can find a home of their own is at the heart of everything REALTORS® do. In 2019, the National Association of REALTORS® launched its “That’s Who We R” campaign and showcased REALTORS’® role helping Americans realize homeownership. With “Everyone Deserves the American Dream,” we also champion REALTORS’® role as dream makers while resolving that we will work to eliminate all the historical barriers to that dream becoming a reality. REALTORS® are the key to EVERYONE having the opportunity of homeownership, to achieving the American Dream.

You’ll find American Dream resources on our website including: tip sheets on how to secure mortgage financing or when is the right time to sell, information and action steps regarding discriminatory appraisals and news on our advocacy efforts to increase affordable housing and thwart legislation at the statehouse, village halls and county board rooms that seems innocent on the surface but could have negative, unintended consequences that impact all homeowners – whether you live in a small town, large city or new subdivision.