Feds Reveal Widespread Housing Bias But Refuse to Stop It

A new HUD study reveals widespread practices of racial discrimination in housing markets, but as ProPublica reports, the agency has no plans to go after offenders uncovered in the vast data on discrimination.

By Seth Freed Wessler Jun 12, 2013

A new report commissioned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development revealed yesterday that prospective renters or home buyers of color are significantly less likely to be shown units compared to white home seekers.  The results of the study, conducted by the Urban Institute with a $9 million grant from HUD, are fairly unsurprising–discrimination is present everywhere and housing is no exception.

But as ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones reports, HUD has no plans to do anything to stop the practices revealed in the new study. Hannah-Jones writes:

[T]he more startling thing may be what HUD intends to do with its findings. …[T]he federal agency has no plans to use these tests to actually enforce the law and punish the offenders.

Once a decade for the last 40 years, HUD has produced a massive survey to reveal the pervasive discrimination that, year after year, exists in America’s housing marketplace. But as ProPublica reported late last year, HUD as a policy refuses to invest the same kinds of time, resources and techniques in prosecuting those guilty of the very discrimination its expensive studies uncover. Instead, HUD outsources testing used to find and punish discriminatory landlords to dozens of small, poorly funded fair housing groups scattered across the country.

And Congress has shown little appetite for forcing HUD to do more meaningful enforcement. A bill that would create a national testing enforcement program at HUD is expected to soon die in committee for the third time.

The Urban Institute conducted 8,000 tests in 28 cities by sending testers of color and white testers with otherwise equal qualifications to realtors to inquire about apartments and homes. The report found that black, Asian and Latinos borrowers are less likely to be shown houses or apartments. That means folks of color have fewer options for where to live, are forced to spend more time and money looking for a home, and end up stuck in neighborhoods some may hope to leave.

As the author of the Urban Institute report said in a video that accompanies the report, "discrimination in housing contributes to the persistence of broader inequalities in housing, in home ownership, in neighborhoods, access to education, wealth building. So where we live really matters."

ProPublica’s previous investigation revealed that HUD has consistently refused to act affirmatively to stop these practices despite clear legal, decades-old prohibitions against racial discrimination in housing.