Housing discrimination persists in more subtle ways, HUD report says

June 11, 2013

Housing discrimination remains problematic, according to a government report released Tuesday that found that although blatant acts of racial prejudice in the selling, buying and renting of homes have been declining in the United States, more subtle forms of housing bias “stubbornly persist.”

“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 Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The nationwide HUD survey of 28 metropolitan areas showed that real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available homes and apartments to minority families, not only restricting their options but also increasing their costs to rent or buy.

In particular, African American renters who contact agents about recently advertised housing units are told about 11 percent fewer available units and are shown roughly 4 percent fewer units than white renters. Similarly, Asian renters are told about 10 percent fewer available units and are shown nearly 7 percent fewer units; Hispanic renters learn about 12 percent fewer units and are shown 7 percent fewer units than are whites.

Discrimination is more evident in the buying market, the report found. In particular, black home buyers who contact real estate agents about recently advertised homes for sale are informed about 17 percent fewer available homes and are shown about 18 percent fewer units than are white home buyers. Asians are informed about 15 percent fewer available homes and are shown nearly 19 percent fewer units.

Discrimination against minorities seeking homes lingers.

In the Washington area, blacks pay $262 more than whites for rental move-in costs, according to the report. Average yearly incentives are lower by $168 for black renters, while the average first-year net cost is $402 higher for blacks compared with the cost for white renters.

About 11.6 percent of white renters in the region were told that rent was negotiable, compared with 7.2 percent of black renters, the report found.

As housing bias becomes more subtle, “the forms of discrimination documented by this study are very difficult for victims to detect,” said Margery Turner of the Urban Institute.

However, this has also raised questions about the need for such surveys, which are done every 10 years. The latest report cost about $9 million.

Donovan defended the survey, but acknowledged that HUD needs to focus on more proactive efforts to identify and address housing descrimination, especially in the sales market.

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