How Much Have We Lost?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hispanic Housing Discrimination Alive and Well in Northern Virginia

The Equal Rights Center has just come out with a disturbing report entitled Precaucion: Obstacles for Latinos in the Virginia Rental Housing Market, that should concern everyone. 

After conducting study with live prospective renters, they found that landlords routinely discriminate against Hispanics prospective renters in Northern Virginia.  Given that 24% of the population of the 44th District is Hispanic, this is an issue that should be of special concern to anyone living in our area. 

Here's how it worked:
  • The study conducted 106 matched pair (one Hispanic and one white going to the same property) tests in areas where Hispanic populations lived in close proximity to predominantly white populations. 
  • The tested landlords required at least 25 units. 
  • The Hispanic pairs gave had the same personal and financial profiles. 
  • The Hispanic pair went first to ensure they'd receive more favorable information (e.g. before a unit was rented)
  • They both visited the same day and frequently saw the saw property agent
  • Everyone was lawfully present in the United States
  • They conducted the study in the City of Fairfax, Henrico & Richmond, Loudoun, Prince William, Manassas, Roanoke County, and the Northern Shenandoah Valley (Augusta, Culpepper, Frederick, Rockingham), and Virginia Beach.
In 58 of 106 tests, the Hispanic pair was discriminated against.  Here were the specific findings:

  • 6% - Were quoted higher rents/fees
  • 14%  - White applicants were informed of incentives and special offers that were not offered to Hispanics.  This occurred in 23% of Prince William County tests and 17% in Loudoun
  • 16% - Hispanics were offered later availability dates for apartments than white applicants
  • 22% - Hispanics were informed of fewer available apartments
  • 6% - Did not require credit checks of Whites versus Hispanics
  • 19% - Imposed additional requirements on Hispanic renters such as security deposits, proof of social security number, notarization, information about prior civil suits, criminal background checks, verification of prior rental history
They also broke this down by region.

The report made several recommendations including:
  • State & Local legislators need to pass legislation that complies with U.S. Fair Housing Laws.
  • Housing providers need to better train their staff.
  • Housing providers need to develop written materials that detail their rental fees, costs, and application requirements.
  • Tenants and prospective tenants need to be better informed of their fair housing rights and be prepared to enforce them.
Housing is a fundamental human need.  Finding somewhere to live should not be a challenge because of the color of your skin.  Landlords that discriminate against anyone due to their race should be held accountable. 

Discriminatory behavior also seems to be more pervasive in Northern Virginia than the rest of the Commonwealth.  In the City of Fairfax, discriminatory behavior ranged from 20-60% of the interviews.  In Prince William, it occurred 9-32% of the interviews.  Loudoun was 12-17%.  In the study, a Hispanic was less likely to be discriminated against in the Shenandoah Valley

This is absolutely unacceptable.  I am going to think about solutions to this problem as well.  If anyone has any ideas, please post them up or send me an email at scottsurovell@gmail.com

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