This week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute released data from a study, regarding housing and racial discrimination. The study suggests that African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are less likely to learn about specialized housing programs than White buyers.
The study, “Housing Discrimination Against Racial And Ethnic Minorities 2012,” found that real estate and rental housing agents do not display an equal amount of options when compared to Whites. Although HUD officials acknowledge that the discrimination of the past has been in steady decline, the insidious practice of denying Blacks and minorities access to properties is persisting.
“Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic, and educational opportunities,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a press statement. “It’s clear we still have work to do to end housing discrimination once and for all.”
“The forms of discrimination documented by this study are very difficult for victims to detect,” added Urban Institute’s Margery Turner. “To detect housing discrimination today, 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.”
The Urban Institute conducted the study, using a “paired testing” method to collect data. Simply put, the researchers compared the results of White and minority home buyers in 28 major metropolitan areas, including the Washington Metropolitan region, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Atlanta.
The Institute used trained testers who are White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic to inquire about randomly selected properties in their testing region. The testers in the paired groupings matched in age, gender, family structure, and earnings.
On paper, these testers were qualified buyers or renters and secretly recorded the treatment they received while in the field.
It was found that African American home buyers learned about the existence of 17 percent fewer homes and were shown 18 percent fewer properties. On the renters’ side, 11 percent fewer units were discovered while they were shown 4 percent less units than Whites.
Hispanic testers faced less discrimination, with renters learning about 12 percent less of available units, although they were shown 7 percent fewer available rental properties.
Although these findings are somewhat sobering, HUD promises to eliminate this subtle form of discrimination going forward.
“The study represents a glass that’s half full. 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,” said Bryan Greene, HUD acting assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to ensuring that every American has equal access to housing opportunities.”