ST. LOUIS – According to Census Bureau data, white St. Louisans are nearly twice as likely as black St. Louisans to own a home. Black homeownership rates remain the lowest of all racial groups in the country. 

April is Fair Housing Month, and there’s a St. Louis realtor who’s advocated for fair housing since the 1970s. Her name is Barbara Heise.

“White man has gained wealth by selling his house, right? Not so in the black community,” Heise said.

Heise’s fight for fair housing can be traced back to the days of blockbusting.

“You could get me to tears on this subject because of my passion. It’s just not fair,” she said. 

More than 40 years later, she’s still standing up for equity and inclusion in St. Louis communities.

“Affirmatively furthering fair housing doesn’t have anything to do, nothing to do with affordable housing,” Heise said.

Heise co-founded the nonprofit “With Action.” The group advocates for changes to discriminatory policies and practices to achieve economically and racially inclusive neighborhoods. She’s been a driving force in developing and testing a new home appraisal plan to protect sellers from bias and discrimination while increasing economic growth and property values in historically undervalued and marginalized communities. 

“I’ve had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with appraisers saying, ‘Hey guys, c’mon! You are one block away, and you are telling me you can’t use a house that is one block away?'” Heise said. “Same style. Same age. Same everything except Delmar.” 

Rosalind Williams and Heise started “With Action” together. 

“There’s an awful lot that is designed to maintain the status quo, and that’s hard to change. And Barbara’s willing to stay with it,” Williams said. “She could probably make a lot more money by staying in West County. She has sacrificed probably a lot to do the right thing.” 

And doing the right thing for her clients and our community is the only thing Heise wants to be remembered for.

“All people are the same. I just want everybody to say, Hey, that’s what she was working for,” Heise said. “Color of your skin doesn’t make a darn bit of difference. Your religion doesn’t make a darn bit of difference. You’re a human being, and that’s how you should be treated.”