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Housing Discrimination Research

Posted Date:   
July 16, 2015

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PD&R studies the presence and extent of discrimination in the housing market. It has performed such studies for over 40 years and has expanded its focus to various markets.

Current research studies focusing on discrimination include:

A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has sponsored paired-testing studies to document and estimate rates of discrimination in housing markets since the late 1970s. This report presents findings from a pilot study of discrimination in the rental housing market based on sexual orientation (using same-sex relationship status as a proxy) and gender status, two categories that are not covered explicitly by the Fair Housing Act. This study was designed to (1) develop and pilot test an in-person, paired-testing protocol to estimate rental housing discrimination against men partnering with men and women partnering with women relative to comparable heterosexual couples, (2) develop and pilot test an in-person, paired-testing protocol to estimate rental housing discrimination against transgender individuals, and (3) compare the utility of remote testing conducted by telephone or e-mail with in-person testing. The research team conducted a total of 2,009 paired tests in Dallas, TX; Los Angeles, CA; and Washington, DC. Findings included that housing providers treated lesbians comparably to heterosexual women seeking rental housing, told gay men about one fewer available rental unit for every 4.2 tests than they told heterosexual men, and told transgender testers about fewer units than they told cisgender homeseekers.

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Housing Discrimination Against Racial And Ethnic Minorities 2012

For much of the twentieth century, discrimination by private real estate agents and rental property owners helped establish and sustain stark patterns of housing and neighborhood inequality. Beginning in the late 1970s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has rigorously monitored trends in racial and ethnic discrimination in both rental and sales markets approximately once each decade through a series of nationwide paired-testing studies. This summary report presents findings from the fourth such study, which applied paired-testing methodology in 28 metropolitan areas to measure the incidence and forms of discrimination experienced by black, Hispanic, and Asian renters and homebuyers.

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An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples

This is the first large-scale, paired-testing study to assess housing discrimination against same-sex couples in metropolitan rental markets via advertisements on the Internet. The research is based on 6,833 e-mail correspondence tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the United States from June through October 2011. For each correspondence test, two e-mails were sent to the housing provider, each inquiring about the availability of the unit advertised on the Internet. The only difference between the two e-mails was the sexual orientation of the couple making the inquiry. Two sets of correspondence tests were conducted, one assessing the treatment of gay male couples relative to heterosexual couples and one assessing the treatment of lesbian couples relative to heterosexual couples. This methodology provides the first direct evidence of discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples compared with the treatment of heterosexual couples when searching for rental housing advertised on the Internet in the United States.

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Housing Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market Against People Who Are Deaf and People Who Use Wheelchairs: National Study Findings

This report provides results of the first national paired-testing study of housing discrimination against people who are deaf or hard of hearing and against people who use wheelchairs. Given differences in the challenges faced by people who are deaf or hard of hearing from those experienced by people who use wheelchairs, there are two study designs. Tests with people who are deaf or hard of hearing focused on housing searches conducted with telecommunication relay services, whereas tests with people who use wheelchairs focused on housing searches for accessible buildings and housing units. In both cases, there is systematic evidence of unfavorable treatment. The findings presented here have broad implications for policymakers, fair housing practitioners, and researchers, telecommunications engineers, professionals in the housing construction industry, and those in housing management firms.

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Discrimination Against Families With Children In Rental Housing Markets: Findings Of The Pilot Study

This pilot study adapted a well-established paired-testing methodology to examine discrimination against families with children in the rental housing market, developed preliminary estimates of this form of discrimination, and explored what family or housing characteristics might affect it. Data were collected via telephone and in-person paired tests in three metropolitan sites: Dallas, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Los Angeles, California. The pilot study relied on a multifactor design using data from 612 matched pairs of rental applicants. Key findings are that homeseekers with or without children are equally likely to get an appointment with a rental agent and learn about at least one available housing unit. Compared with their childless counterparts, prospective renters with children were shown slightly fewer units and were told about units that were slightly larger, and, as a result, were slightly more expensive to rent. Other outcomes did not vary by the presence of a child. Differential treatment was greater in tests targeting one-bedroom units (versus larger units) and tests involving two-child families (versus one-child families). Other factors, including race/ethnicity and marital status of the tester and ages and sexes of the children, did not appear to affect systematically how families with children were treated in the rental housing market.

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Study of Rental Housing Discrimination on the Basis of Mental Disability

More than 15 million people in the United States have some type of mental disability. Many of these individuals seek community-based housing in the rental market. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, an increasing number of individuals with disabilities are moving from nursing homes and other institutional settings into community-based settings. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of housing discrimination complaints received in the U.S. involve discrimination based on a disability. This pilot study represents the first comprehensive examination of discrimination in the rental housing market against people with mental disabilities (MD). The study specifically focuses on persons with mental illness (MI) and those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD). The goal of the study was to increase the understanding of the prevalence and forms of housing discrimination against this population as they seek market-rate housing and to evaluate the utility of different approaches to paired testing when conducting research on housing discrimination on the basis of mental disability.

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