The last few weeks have caused us all to stop and further reflect on the continued inequalities and injustices faced by Black people every day. Many of us are recognizing our privileged position in society and the role we have played in perpetuating broken systems that continue to discriminate against, and disadvantage, people of color. To support the movement toward real equality for all, we understand that it is important for us to state our position clearly and unequivocally. ULI opposes all forms of racial discrimination and injustice. ULI is an anti-racist organization that believes that Black Lives Matter. ULI commits to being a catalyst for change in our industry and in our diverse communities.
The real estate industry has been a major force behind the growth of our cities and communities. Despite the progress we have made, we have also made mistakes that we need to acknowledge and address. The history of urban planning and development in the United States has included racist practices that have caused economic and social harm to our Black communities for generations. We are committed to acknowledging this legacy while prioritizing efforts to make real and lasting progress in solving these problems as an industry. We will also work in partnership with the public sector to develop tailored programs to bring about change.
We have previously stated that diversity, inclusion, and equity are the foundations on which our mission sits and that we must provide leadership in bringing about the change our communities require. While we have been working toward these goals, we recognize we need to expand and speed up our efforts. We have received extensive feedback from, and had many constructive conversations with, our members, which have enabled us to outline the first steps we will take to address systemic racial inequity in both our organization and our communities. Those first steps are:
- Accelerate representation – We will increase the number of people of color in ULI across both membership and staff. This includes increasing representation in leadership positions such as sitting on our various governing boards and committees, holding chair positions in our district and product councils, and serving among our senior staff team. It also includes ensuring that our speakers and panelists better reflect the current diversity of our communities. Changing our member and staff demographics to more closely match society will lead to a greater diversity of views and potential solutions — and create a better ULI. We will create a committee that includes both members and staff to guide this initiative, which will be overseen by a sub-committee of the Americas Executive Committee. We commit to making data on our demographics publicly accessible within the next 60 days and will track our performance, publishing our progress as part of the Institute’s annual report.
- Expanding Programs – We commit to expanding the programs we have in place to actively tackle the inequality of opportunity within our communities and introduce diverse young people to the real estate industry. Our Real Estate Diversity Initiative (REDI) program helps women and people of color to advance their careers and expand their professional networks. This initiative is active and has proved successful in six district councils. With additional member engagement and support, the opportunity exists to expand it to many more of our 52 district councils. Our UrbanPlan program, which annually reaches more than 4,000 students, is a powerful way of engaging high school and college students with an introduction to real estate issues. We will ensure that this program reaches more students of color and is conducted in more under-served communities. In addition, we are working to expand existing programs that connect college students with district councils and industry representatives, and will work to include historically Black colleges and universities in that effort, with the explicit goal of increasing the pipeline of diverse talent that enters our industry. All of these programs would benefit from additional member support, both in time and treasure.
- Identify the problems and advance best practices that tackle systemic racism – At the very heart of ULI is the belief that sharing ideas, best practices, and lessons learned is the best way to approach a problem. We must engage with our communities to identify historical and current policies that perpetuate discriminatory practices and develop solutions that can help tackle deeply rooted social inequities. Several of our Advisory Services panels have addressed this topic, including our Washington, D.C., panel last summer. Social equity concerns have been an integral element in the work of our Center for Sustainability and Economic Performance and the Terwilliger Center for Housing. There is no doubt we can do much more in this area. Elevating the urgency of this conversation at both the city and national level should improve the overall understanding of this challenge, which is a first, necessary step to accomplish real change.
- Channel the power of our networks – Within ULI we have some of the most powerful real estate networks in the world, and we will channel them more effectively to help bring about the change we all want to see. As industry leaders, our product council members must be instrumental in shaping the future of the real estate sector, while our district councils are our best route to maximizing the impact we can make in as many of our communities as possible. Our network leaders must be committed to increasing diversity among their members, and we will support their efforts. We will work with both networks and affinity groups such as the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) to develop more targeted outreach.
We recognize that these are just the first steps we can take to tackle racial inequity in our industry and our communities. As we develop more detailed solutions to encourage diversity and fight racism, we will provide alternative ways for our various partners and members to support these initiatives, in order to allow them to expand in scope and scale. As an organization, we are committed to listening and working with our members, our communities, and our staff to ensure that, together, we accomplish lasting change.
We hope we can continue to count on our members to join in and help with the hard work we have ahead.
Owen D. Thomas
W. Edward Walter
Gwyneth J. Cote