The Richmond Association of Realtors® – the largest trade association in central Virginia serving more than 6,000 members – exists to support real estate professionals with education, advocacy, innovation and marketing resources.
But that’s not enough for RAR or its chief executive officer, Laura Lafayette. Part of ensuring a vibrant housing marketplace and a thriving community, Lafayette believes, is ensuring that all residents have access to affordable and safe housing.
To accomplish this loftier goal, RAR and its partner Central Virginia Regional MLS, which Lafayette also heads, are active participants in eight area housing charities dedicated to ensuring that every Richmond resident lives in an area where they can easily access necessities such as education, healthy food, employment and medical services. By doing so, Lafayette believes, the fabric of the community is strengthened and sustainable growth is stimulated.
“Although there are many factors that contribute to an area’s quality of life, the condition of the homes we live in and the neighborhoods that surround them convey a compelling message about a region’s values and priorities,” Lafayette says.
To help ensure a high quality of life, Lafayette serves on the board of the nonprofit Partnership for Housing Affordability. The partnership is currently working on the Richmond Regional Housing Framework that will promote new entrepreneurial ventures, reduce congestion and create opportunities for private investment, all with a goal of enhancing quality of life and providing tangible solutions for those with housing challenges.
RAR also supports Better Housing Coalition, Project: HOMES, The Sophie House, Housing Virginia, Richmond Metro Habitat for Humanity, Virginia Supportive Housing, and Homeward.
“Laura and RAR have supported and helped grow our affordable housing industry,” said Greta Harris, president and CEO of Better Housing Coalition. “They have strengthened our nonprofit capacities, influenced meaningful policies and helped us work more collaboratively together in order to serve more families. They understand the importance of quality housing choices across all incomes in our RVA region.”
Some of Lafayette’s specific activities in support of the housing partnerships include volunteering during Richmond’s Affordable Housing Awareness Week, presenting at Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s housing summit, helping to break ground at the first Community Land Trust home in Church Hill, and celebrating with new homeowners at a “key ceremony” at their new house.
Within the broader community, Laura serves as a gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Housing Commission and is the chair of the Board of Housing Virginia, the founding chair of the board of the Maggie L. Walker Community Land Trust, and the immediate past chair of Homeward. She also serves on the board of the Peter Paul Development Center as well as the vestry of Christ Church Episcopal.
But RAR’s community involvement goes beyond supporting housing organizations. Through a donor-directed fund at The Community Foundation, the association was able to allocate $70,000 to nine local educational nonprofits last year.
Lafayette’s core driver is to create a community of opportunity, and she never turns down a platform to talk about her passion, often speaking at conferences and community functions. “We’re not looking at what the city will look like in 2020,” she says, “but what it will look like in 2030.”
She also works to instill her passion for community work into every member Realtor; each is introduced to the issue of housing opportunity through new-member orientation, and they are reminded at every RAR event thereafter. Lafayette emphasizes to the association’s members that expanding opportunities in the community has a direct positive impact on individual real estate agencies.
“People don’t buy a home until they’ve first bought into a community’s quality of life,” she says.