By Linda Tishler Levinson
Latinos seeking to buy or rent a home are more likely to encounter discrimination, according to recent reports, which has prompted a state housing agency to investigate the severity of trend in Connecticut. Despite federal laws against housing discrimination, the problem persists around the state, officials said.
As a follow up to the incidence of housing discrimination against Latinos found in the results of a national study by The Equal Rights Center (ERC) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Connecticut Fair Housing Agency is conducting similar testing with Latino subjects to gauge the occurrence of discrimination in the local housing market.
In the national study, results found that housing agents dealing with Latino test subjects in Birmingham, Atlanta and San Antonio were less receptive to making appointments, showed fewer housing options, provided lender recommendations or other beneficial financing information more often to white testers, quoted higher costs or fees, gave more extensive applications, and were more persistent in their follow-up contact by means of phone calls or emails to white testers.
Groups in the report described the results of the tests, which involved 225 matched-pair tests conducted by the ERC. The matched pairs included a Latino tester and a white counterpart, both seeking housing and who were otherwise similar.
In 42 percent of the cases — 95 of the 225 tests — the Latino testers experienced at least one form of adverse, differential treatment compared to their counterpart white tester.
Similarly, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center is conducting “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing” as required by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“It’s really an ongoing project,” Executive Director Erin Kemple said. The results of the testing are due in late August.
According to Kemple, the same trends seem to hold true in Connecticut.
“We continue to get complaints from people, and we continue to investigate,” Kemple said, adding that Latinos account for more complaints regarding discrimination than whites.
“Given that Hispanics were disproportionately affected by the housing crash and represented a significant portion of those victimized by predatory lending, we thought it was critical to see if their recovery process was being impeded further by discriminatory practices,” Lindsay Daniels, associate director of housing at NCLR, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our investigation did uncover that while in some cases more subtle, Latinos are still contending with discrimination in their efforts to purchase or rent a home.”
Discrimination against families with children is also prevalent – and illegal – Kemple said.
According to Kemple, the housing agency has become more concerned about complaints regarding families of color with children facing discrimination in light of the Trayvon Martin case, she added.
In particular, she said, some families are being asked if their children are involved in gangs when they apply for housing.
Kemple said much of her agency’s work is letting people know they have equal housing rights. Increased awareness is crucial, as many Latinos are not fully aware of their housing rights, or are afraid to report discrimination, she said. To reduce qualms about reporting discrimination, the agency can take anonymous complaints or take down information without starting an investigation.
She urged Latinos to report any housing discrimination they experience. By failing to report discrimination, the cycle will only continue, she said.