Edina Realty agent Man Huynh is president of the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors charitable foundation, which has issued $100,000 in grants annually toward community projects. Huynh, of Highland Park, served as president of the association in 2018. (Courtesy of Man Huynh)
April 27, 2022 at 5:16 p.m.
As a Realtor, Man Huynh knows his profession hasn’t always gotten a good rap. Realtors connect homebuyers and home sellers, quite literally walking prospective new city residents into what could be their future housing. But some have also played a role, nationally and historically, in redlining efforts that have segregated communities by race, income and ethnicity, effects still felt decades later.
Huynh, a resident of Highland Park and president of the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors charitable foundation, has tried to set a softer tone.
Since 2018, when he served as president of SPAAR, which is composed of some 8,000 Realtors, the charitable foundation has issued $100,000 annually in grants toward community projects, several of them focused on celebrating or supporting communities of color.
“It’s super gratifying,” Huynh said. “It’s one of those things where when you see the impact that you have on a community where you live and work, it changes your own well-being.”
Some of those charitable efforts have been overshadowed by the pandemic, and not every community partnership has turned out as planned.
In 2018, the foundation donated $50,000 to Meals from the Heart, Inc. and $50,000 to Rondo Avenue, Inc., the organizers of the Rondo Days street festival in St. Paul.
The next year, the foundation issued two grants to Great River Greening and the Rondo Center for Diverse Expression. In 2020, another $50,000 grant supported the Mapping Prejudice project at the University of Minnesota, which maps areas of the Twin Cities where racial covenants written into housing deeds explicitly barred sales to Black and ethnic owners prior to the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968.
‘BETTER AGENTS, BETTER COMMUNITIES’
The next year the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors and Just Deeds — an initiative dedicated to actively removing racial covenants from property deeds — parted ways.
SPAAR is no longer listed on the Just Deeds website as a “project partner,” though the Minneapolis Area Realtors still are.
“One of the reasons we didn’t stay a partner is SPAAR does everything through members,” said Jennifer Kovacich, a spokesperson for SPAAR. “They had moved forward to attaching our name to some things before our members were on board. There was some language we felt we didn’t have the opportunity to review it as much as we wanted to, and they were in a rush to launch. But the work of Just Deeds, SPAAR is fully behind.”
Also in 2020, $25,000 went toward the Housing First Minnesota Foundation, with another $25,000 funding Safe Summer Nights police cook-outs and outreach events in St. Paul.
Last year, the SPAAR foundation issued one grant — $100,000 for Bridging, a nonprofit that outfits residents transitioning out of homelessness with furniture such as dresser-drawers.
The foundation, which is running grants under the tag line “Better Agents, Better Communities,” will accept grant applications through May 27 focused on advocacy, communications, professional development or community engagement. More information is online at spaar.com/realtors-charitable-foundation.
This article was published and first appeared in the Pioneer Press.