A Long History of Fair Housing Research
Todd M. Richardson, General Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research.
April is Fair Housing Month, so now is a good time to reflect on what we have learned about fair housing as we look toward the future.
One recent event is already historically significant: On February 11, HUD issued a memorandum clarifying that the Fair Housing Act’s protections based on sex include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In its 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County decision, the Supreme Court held that workplace prohibitions on sex discrimination include discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity. As Damon Smith, HUD principal deputy general counsel, stated, “[T]he same discrimination that the Supreme Court has said is illegal in the workplace is also illegal in the housing market.”
According to a 2020 Gallup poll, an estimated 5.6 percent of American adults, or more than 11.7 million people, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The clarification that the Fair Housing Act protects these Americans is of some significance.
Research on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity supported by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) can be found here:
- An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples (2013).
- A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals (2017).
PD&R has long supported studies that measure housing discrimination. The Housing Discrimination Study (HDS) series is one of PD&R’s signature efforts:
- Housing Market Practices Survey (1977). The first national paired testing study examining the discrimination that Blacks face in both rental housing and housing sales.
- HDS (1989). Provides national estimates of discrimination for Blacks and Hispanics.
- HDS (2000). Provides national estimates of discrimination for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians as well as smaller studies for Native Americans, people who are deaf, and people who use wheelchairs.
- HDS (2012). Provides national estimates for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, people who are deaf, and people who use wheelchairs. Smaller studies exist for people with mental disabilities and families with children.
A 2015 article in Cityscape, PD&R’s research journal, by Sun Jung Oh and John Yinger offers an excellent summary of the trends in housing discrimination from these studies.
Cityscape has devoted several issues to fair housing. Three issues that I enjoy revisiting are the following:
- “The Fair Housing Act at 50” (2019).
- “Housing Discrimination Today” (2015).
- “Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act” (1998).
Other interesting studies examined the role private fair housing groups play in enforcing the Fair Housing Act:
- Affirmative Fair Housing Techniques Demonstration (1979).
- Fair Housing Enforcement Demonstration (1983).
- An Evaluation of the FHIP Private Enforcement Initiative Testing Demonstration (1996).
- Study of the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (2011).
Two studies posed various housing transaction scenarios as a way to test Americans’ knowledge of fair housing:
- How Much Do We Know? (2002).
- Do We Know More Now? Trends in Public Knowledge, Support and Use of Fair Housing Law (2006).
Much more history can be found on HUD User, of course, but I want to take a moment to discuss the near future.
President Biden’s very first Executive Order on January 20, 2021, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, set a 200-day deadline for each federal agency to conduct an equity assessment, including a review of select programs that “will assess whether underserved communities and their members face systemic barriers in accessing benefits and opportunities available pursuant to those policies and programs.” PD&R is working closely with our colleagues throughout HUD to meet this deadline. Today marks day 89.
PD&R is also beginning its work on the next generation of housing discrimination research. We will be issuing a solicitation soon for a contractor to begin this work.
In PD&R, we like to keep the past in mind as we work on our future. Happy Fair Housing Month!