Housing discrimination, while more subtle, still exists

Money down drainHousing discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities has become more subtle, yet remains stubbornly persistent throughout the U.S., according to a new study released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research and policy education organization, both based in Washington, D.C.

The study, “Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012,” found blatant acts of housing discrimination continued to decline; however, real estate agents and rental housing providers still recommended and showed fewer homes and apartments to African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians, restricting their housing options and increasing their costs.

“Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement, “but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic and educational opportunities.”

Shown fewer properties

Minorities are rarely denied outright appointments to see properties, but were shown fewer properties than equally qualified whites, according to the study.

Told about and shown fewer homes:

  • Black home buyers who inquired about recently advertised homes for sale were told about 17 percent fewer homes and shown about 18 percent fewer homes
  • Asian buyers were told about 15 percent fewer homes and shown nearly 19 percent fewer
  • The difference in treatment for Hispanic home buyers was not statistically significant, according to the study

Told about and shown fewer rental properties:

  • Hispanic renters who inquired about recently advertised rentals were told about 12 percent fewer units and shown approximately 7 percent fewer units than whites
  • Black renters were told about 11 percent fewer options and shown approximately 4 percent fewer
  • Asian renters were told about 10 percent fewer and shown nearly 7 percent fewer

Paired testing

“HUD and local fair housing organizations need to conduct proactive testing, especially in the sales market, where discrimination appears higher than in the rental market,” said Margery Turner, vice president for research at the Urban Institute, who conducted the HUD-sponsored study.

The study used so-called “paired testing,” in which researchers compared the treatment of trained testers who randomly contacted housing providers to inquire about recently advertised homes and apartments. Testers were used in a nationally representative sample of 28 metropolitan areas.

According to a HUD press release, “Of the more than 8,000 paired tests, two trained individuals (one white and the other black, Hispanic, or Asian), contacted a housing provider to inquire about a unit randomly selected from recently advertised homes and apartments. The two testers in each pair were matched on gender, age and family composition and assigned the same financial characteristics.”

“The study represents a glass that’s half full,” HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Bryan Greene said in a statement. “While discrimination may not be as obvious as it was in the 1960s, the study reminds us that we still aren’t living up to the principles upon which this nation was founded. HUD is committed to ensuring that every American has equal access to housing opportunities.”

HSH Associates Financial News Blog

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