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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 21, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 25
Can't find an apartment? - New HUD study says anti-Gay discrimination may be to blame
Section One
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Can't find an apartment? - New HUD study says anti-Gay discrimination may be to blame

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Same-sex couples experience significant discrimination when they try to rent housing, a new study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows.

'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,' HUD said in a statement released June 18.

LAWS NOT A CURE-ALL
According to HUD, '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.'

Washington is one of 20 states with laws prohibiting discrimination in housing against LGBT residents.

The HUD study, designed by University at Albany associate sociology professor Samantha Friedman, 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 a unit advertised on the Internet. The only difference between the two e-mails was the sexual orientation of the couple making the inquiry.

Two separate 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.

Unfavorable treatment was measured by whether the tester was told the unit was available, was asked to contact the landlord, was invited to the see the apartment, or received any response at all.

GAYS GET FEWER RESPONSES
'The discrimination found in this study is mainly at the initial stage of the housing search process, which is alarming because it means that same-sex couples are being shut out of housing opportunities right away by not being responded to as frequently as heterosexual couples by housing providers,' Friedman reported.

'Same-sex couples are less likely than heterosexual couples to receive an e-mail response from providers and gain access to targeted rental units. Given how easy it is for providers to respond to e-mails, this finding is disturbing.

'The adverse treatment of same-sex couples stems largely from the fact that housing providers are less likely to respond to the e-mail inquiries of same-sex couples, relative to heterosexual couples. The findings here are alarming but likely provide conservative estimates of such discrimination. It is likely that in-person audits will reveal more significant disparities, because landlords will have visual cues to confirm the sexual orientation of testers that might not have been as easily detected in the e-mail,' she continued.

'This study is important because it shows that differential treatment exists between same-sex and heterosexual couples in their access to rental housing opportunities. HUD has already taken important steps to combat such discrimination, and we hope this study serves as a springboard for more research and the implementation of more laws against such discrimination.'

HUD PLEDGES MORE HELP
HUD officials responded to the study by promising to work toward equal treatment for all people in the rental housing market.

'President Obama and this administration have been unmatched in our efforts to ensure equal and fair treatment of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) persons and communities,' said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

'Following the president's lead, HUD has taken historic steps in the area of fair housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation's commitment to equality. As this study shows, we need to continue our efforts to ensure that everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own, regardless of their sexual orientation.'

'A person's sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing,' said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. 'HUD is committed to making sure that LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.'

FHA: NO LGBT PROTECTIONS
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in rental, sales and lending on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status, but it does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes.

Recently, HUD issued new guidance that treats discrimination based on gender nonconformity or sex stereotyping as sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and instructs HUD staff to inform individuals filing complaints about state and local agencies that have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

On February 3, 2012, HUD published a final rule, 'Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity,' which requires HUD-funded and HUD-insured housing providers and FHA-approved lenders to provide equal access without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status.

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