Housing Discrimination Against Blacks Persists, It’s Just More Subtle

June 18, 2013  |  

It may seem like America has left behind the days of discrimination against minorities interested in buying homes, but housing discrimination still persists — it’s simply more camouflaged. Blacks are shown 17 percent fewer properties than equally qualified Whites, a study by the Urban Institute shows.

Back in the day, to keep the neighborhoods racially segregated, Blacks have been denied home tours and appointments with real estate agencies. Nowadays, agents cannot refuse to work with minorities, but they can deviously manipulate the housing options presented to their clients. Blacks are less likely than Whites to be shown the full spectrum of available homes in the neighborhood, reports Business Insider.

The study, which was released by the Department of Housing and Development, consisted of 8,000 White and minority participants who were all equally qualified for housing. They were told to respond to real estate advertisements in 28 cities. Blacks were shown 4.2 percent fewer apartments than Whites, and Hispanics were shown 7.5 percent fewer than their Caucasian counterparts.

In one test, a Black participant was denied an appointment because he or she was not pre-qualified for a loan; a White participant, however, was given an appointment by the same real estate agent without even asking if she was pre-qualified. White participants were also offered lower rent and negotiable prices than Blacks, reports The New York Times.

Another interesting point in the study arose: Minorities whose race could be easily detected by their voice experienced more discriminatory practices than minorities who sounded White. Also, respondents who could physically be mistaken for being Caucasian were less likely to experience prejudice from an agent.

Theorists speculate that the reason behind housing discrimination lies within the real estate’s assumption that the client cannot afford the mortgage or rent—even though the experiment’s participants are financially similar.  Another reason could be attributed to White real estate agents being less comfortable with interacting with minorities. As a result, they’re less likely to show more houses during an appointment.

Coincidentally, yesterday the Supreme Court agreed to rule on a case that relates to an African-American and Hispanic community in New Jersey that will be demolished for redevelopment. Residents accused the city for targeting minorities. The town argues that showing that minorities will be displaced is not sufficient for a discrimination claim. “The plaintiffs must prove that city officials who made the decision were motivated by a desire to discriminate,” reports the American Civil Liberties Union.

This High Court decision may very well be a turning point in protecting house-hunting minorities under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

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