How Activism (And Real Estate) Are Uniting AAPI Communities

In the wake of pandemic-fueled Asian-American hate crimes, I am encouraged by how galvanized we have become as a community. Members of our community come from more than 30 different countries, each with their own cultures, customs and languages, and sometimes it is challenging to find common ground for a group that the government arbitrarily created.

But hate brought us together and made us realize that we needed to create a unified effort to combat these social injustices and discrimination. When we realized that collectively, we became more powerful. 

The recent Unity March, an Asian American multicultural event held on June 25 in Washington, D.C., to advance socioeconomic and cultural equity, racial justice and solidarity, is a perfect illustration.

The rally’s intent was to bring together the diverse Asian and Pacific Islander American diaspora with multicultural partners across the LGBTQ+, Muslim, disability, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Arab American communities.

The seven founding organizations of the Unity March were joined by nearly 80 advocacy groups who drew a crowd of about 2,000 people to the National Mall. Organizers urged participants to increase their civic engagement, including mobilizing for elections and promoting education that is inclusive of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

Speaking of our capital city, I am also encouraged by developments at the federal level.

Last year, President Joe Biden signaled that hate has no place in America by signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law. He also established the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

With both actions, he recognized that our community has been instrumental in building a strong America and will continue that tradition, noting that the (AAPI) population is the most rapidly growing ethnic group in the country and is expected to increase to over 40 million individuals by 2060. 

In his 2022 Proclamation on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, he wrote of the efforts his administration has moved forward, including:

  • The American Rescue Plan helped reduce poverty among AA and NHPI families by approximately 26 percent.  
  • Increased access to capital, training and counseling for AA and NHPI entrepreneurs so their businesses can thrive.  
  • Efforts to ensure that healthcare resources are available to AA and NHPI communities. 

All of these efforts will go a long way in better positioning members of the AAPI community for homeownership, which is a critical pathway to building strong communities across the nation. When we establish permanency of home, we are more inclined to be engaged socially and politically with issues that affect where we live.

Blocking access to homeownership or steering people away from areas they want to live not only hurts victims of discrimination but also takes away from the potential viability of that community as a whole.

At its core, a home provides shelter, a basic human need. In theory, it is guaranteed as a right to all Americans to be able to live where we want. Embedded into that right is the freedom to live where we want without fearing for our safety and security.

We are noticing an increasing trend of AAPI migration out of historic hubs, such as New York City and San Francisco, to lower-priced markets with a lower concentration of AAPI people.

Pew Research found that North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Indiana all had Asian populations increase by at least 150 percent since 2000 and Texas increased its overall number of Asians by 883,000 since then, the second-highest number outside of California’s 2.1 million.

Will this pattern continue if people don’t feel safe in these new communities that may offer plentiful jobs and increased affordability? We need to ensure that the laws that have been enacted to protect the AAPI community are enforced at the local level.

That is something that each and every one of us can do by reaching out to our local officials, participating in town hall meetings, making phone calls and sending letters. Members of Congress listen to their constituents and can only act on the information they have. 

They also respond to powerful voting blocks, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the growing AAPI community is gaining a louder voice. As someone who ran for Town Council in my 20s and worked on numerous NAR, state and regional committees, I am passionate about political activism as a path to change. 

Growing up in Atlanta, even though I was of Korean descent and looked a bit different than my friends, I never realized it mattered. That is until one day during my senior year in the run-up to graduation.

Out of all the cars in our school’s lot, guess whose car was the only one shot up with a BB gun? Mine. The Asian kid. It was a realization that everything I had read about discrimination and been taught about the evils of discrimination was actually true.

I have to admit over the years, I didn’t think much about that episode until Asian American hate began in earnest again. As the President of AREAA, I feel a unique obligation to make our industry aware of how discrimination can impact our community. 

Why does this matter to real estate professionals? Outside of the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and fairness, the AAPI community is obviously growing. And we are becoming homeowners at an increased rate. The U.S. Census first began counting our community at the start of 2016, when our homeownership levels were 55.7 percent. Today, homeownership rates for Asian Americans were at 61.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

In fact, since the start of 2016, no ethnic group had increased homeownership levels at a faster rate than the AAPI community. But even with these increases, we are woefully below the current 65.5 percent of the entire U.S. and the 74.4 percent for the non-Hispanic white population.

The changing demographics of our nation require the real estate industry to continue to learn and welcome all people in our changing American population.  

To join a local AREAA chapter or download the recent State of Asia Homeownership Report, visit www.areaa.org.

Tim Hur is president of the Asian American Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), a national nonprofit trade organization dedicated to improving the lives of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community through homeownership. Hur is the managing broker and president of Point Honors and Associates, a boutique real estate firm in Metro Atlanta. Follow him on Facebook and LinkedIn.