HUD Report Shows Housing Discrimination Against Minorities

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


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From being told about available housing, to getting in-person viewings, to simply setting up an appointment, minorities are at a disadvantage when it comes to their housing searches.

Black, Hispanic, and Asian renters and homebuyers are experiencing housing discrimination across the country, according to a new report released by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The report applied studies done in 28 metropolitan areas to examine how often -- and to what extent -- minorities face discrimination when in the market for a rental or a new home.

HUD reported that black homeseekers are told about 17% fewer available housing units than white homeseekers, and shown 17.7% fewer homes. Among Asians, 15.5% fewer are told about housing units, and shown 18.8% fewer. For Hispanic renters, the rate is about 12.5% fewer and 7.5% fewer, respectively.

Stark patterns of housing and neighborhood inequality have long been established by discrimination on the parts of private real estate agents and rental property owners. "When well-qualified minority homeseekers contact housing providers to inquire about recently advertised housing units, they generally are just as likely as equally qualified white homeseekers to get an appointment and learn about at least one available housing unit. However, when differences in treatment occur, white homeseekers are more likely to be favored than minorities," the report attests.

Jim Vincent, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Providence Branch (NAACP) was "outraged" to hear about the results of the study. "This is definitely happening in Rhode Island, just as much is as in other states. It's possible that our state could even be worse," he said. "I am certainly concerned about the blatant disregard of fairness and equality."

According to the HUD report, minorities  seeking new homes were found to be told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than white people -- and some agents and rental property owners even refuse to meet with minorities homeseekers or provide information about any available units. These forms of discrimination affect minorities by restricting their housing options and raising the costs of housing searches.

How HUD Gathered Data

To gather its results, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development utilized a pair-testing methodology, which has two people–one white and one minority–pose as equally qualified homeseekers inquiring about available homes or apartments.

In the vast majority of cases, both testers were told about at least one available unit. However, whites were highly favored in comparison to all three minorities when it came to being told about the most available units, as well as being shown available units.

In about half of the in-person visits, the white tester was told about more available units than the other. Blacks and Hispanics were told about one fewer unit for every five in-person visits, and Asians were told about one fewer for every six. In a third of in-person visits, the white tester was shown more units than his or her counterpart, with blacks shown about one fewer unit for every 25 visits, Hispanics shown one fewer for every 14 visits, and Asians one fewer for every 13 visits.

Even the identifiability of minorities played a part in experiences of discrimination. "Black and Asian renters whose race is readily identifiable based on name and speech are significantly more likely to be denied an appointment than minorities perceived to be white," the report states. The same goes for homebuyers and those that come in for in-person visits.

HUD Encourages Proactive Approach

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While blatant racial discrimination has been in decline since the 1968 Fair Housing Act, other less detectable forms of discrimination persist. The report asserts that fair housing policies need to continue to adapt to address the patterns of racial disparities against minorities. Instead of relying on individual complaints of discrimination.

"HUD should encourage the local fair housing organizations it funds to conduct more proactive testing," says the report. "Proactive testing can reveal discriminatory practices that would otherwise go unpunished, and when housing providers know that testing is ongoing, they are more likely to comply with the law. Another suggestions made was too strengthen relationships with the Hispanic and Asian communities, as fair housing has been predominantly focused on blacks."

Vincent thinks that people need to be better educated about discrimination and fair housing laws, so that an efficient and long-lasting solution can be reached. An even more proactive way to go about it is firmer reinforcement for private real estate agents and rental property owners, to get the message across that discrimination is a serious crime. "There needs to be an increase in enforcement of fair housing laws, and more prosecutions of those who break them."

Local Initiatives Support Corporation Weighs In

Carrie Zaslow, Program Officer with the Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which mobilizes corporate, government and philanthropic support to invest in locally defined community development projects and activities, thought the HUD report shed important light on the issue of reporting fair housing violations.

"The report identifies a trend that is not seen through other types of fair housing enforcement. Most fair housing cases are investigated because an individual or a family files a claim that they were discriminated against. However, when the discrimination is in the form of difference levels of service it is nearly impossible for an individual or family to know that others not in their protected class were provided a different level of service," said Zaslow.

"This makes it clear that the number of housing discrimination actions brought by the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights and HUD is underrepresenting the number of incidents of housing discrimination."

Zaslow continued, "Through LISC, we're able to invest in community development corporations, that are developers of affordable housing in statewide capacity. We believe that housing choice is important. People should be able to choose the housing they're interested in, whether it be urban, suburban, or a rural -- regardless of income level."

"I do think that there is still a collective sense, at times, of who is "poor" -- I don't believe it's personal. It's an issue, ultimately, we all need to battle."

Spotlight on State: HousingWorksRI Reports Foreclosures Down From Last Year

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Last week, HousingWorks RI released its analysis of foreclosures in Rhode Island for Q1 2013, look at the number of residential foreclosures in each of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns and offers regional comparisons. The report found:

· 369 residential foreclosure deeds were filed in Rhode Island during Q1 2013 compared to 502 in Q1 2012, representing a 26.5 percent decline.

· Providence (without the East Side) and Central Falls had the highest rates of foreclosures in Rhode Island in Q1 2013, followed by West Warwick and Woonsocket.

· Despite their high rates of foreclosures, each of these communities saw a decline in the number of foreclosure deeds filed in Q1 2013 from Q1 2012.

“We’re encouraged to see residential foreclosure deed filings decrease in the communities that have traditionally had the highest rates of foreclosure,” said Jessica Cigna, research and policy associate for HousingWorks RI. “It is troubling, however, to see residential foreclosures increase in our smaller, suburban and rural communities.”

HousingWorks RI’s analysis of the latest Core Logic data shows 23.4 percent of Rhode Island homeowners have negative equity in their home, meaning that they owe more on their mortgages than the value of their home. This is the highest percentage in New England and ranks Rhode Island tenth in the nation for share of ‘underwater’ mortgages.

“We continue to see the lasting effects of these foreclosures on our housing market,” Cigna said. “Policymakers must recognize the importance of housing to our state’s economy and develop strategies that will ensure housing affordability over the long-term. This will reduce our state’s vulnerability to these losses in the future.” 


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