Jonathan Higbee's picture

First HUD Study Surveying LGBT Discrimination In Rental Market Finds Surprising Results

The historic new study from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reveals unsurprising discrimination against the LGBT community spread throughout the rental market. However, what the study has unearthed in states that boast anti-discrimination laws protecting gay Americans from bias in housing might shock you.

From a release about the study:

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.

The study finds that same-sex couples experience less favorable treatment than heterosexual couples in the online rental housing market. The primary form of adverse treatment is that same-sex couples receive significantly fewer responses to e-mail inquiries about advertised units than heterosexual couples. Study results in jurisdictions with state-level protections against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unexpectedly show slightly more adverse treatment of same-sex couples than results in jurisdictions without such protections. This study provides an important initial observation of discrimination based on sexual orientation at the threshold stage of the rental transaction and is a point of departure for future research on housing discrimination against same-sex couples.

Yep, you read that right, "Study results in jurisdictions with state-level protections against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unexpectedly show slightly more adverse treatment of same-sex couples than results in jurisdictions without such protections."

What can be done to stop this when the anti-bias laws are already in place in such areas? Perhaps harsher penalties against discriminatory landlords, for starters?