Study finds housing discrimination against same-sex couples

For RentA new national study has found that same-sex couples are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to experience unfair treatment when they respond to Internet ads offering rental housing.

The study, “An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples,” was conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The study was based on 6,833 email messages sent to housing providers in 50 metropolitan areas in 2011. The messages were sent in identical pairs, except that one inquired about rental housing for heterosexual couples and the other inquired about the same rental housing for same-sex couples. Unfair treatment was measured by whether the provider told the couple the unit was available, asked them to contact the landlord, invited them to see the apartment or sent any response at all.

Same-sex couples received fewer responses

The primary indication of discrimination was that same-sex couples received fewer responses to these inquiries.

The study found this adverse treatment was present in every metropolitan area where tests were conducted and was slightly more common in states that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing,” Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a statement. “HUD is committed to making sure that LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.”

HUD: Treat everyone the same

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental housing, home sales and residential lending on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes in federal law; however, 20 states, the District of Columbia and more than 150 U.S. cities, towns and counties have laws that prohibit housing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The study is intended to be an initial step toward future research that might include in-person testing, examination of legislative protections at the local jurisdictional level and tests to measure discrimination against transgender people, according to HUD.

In a statement, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said the study demonstrates the need to continue efforts to ensure that “everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own, regardless of their sexual orientation.”


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