Undercover tests find housing discrimination against Latinos, blacks, families

Here's what the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center did: It sent two people -- one white and one Latino -- to the same Denver metro apartment building to inquire about renting a unit. The two people had similar incomes and similar employment and rental histories. The purpose of the experiment was to see whether the people would be treated differently.

The short answer is "yes." According to a report released this week, white would-be renters were treated more favorably than Latinos 91 percent of the time.

That's just one of the conclusions in the report, called "Access Denied" and on view below. The center also conducted tests with African-American would-be renters and families with children. It found that both groups were treated less favorably than white people with no children who inquired at the same apartment buildings.

Federal and state laws prohibit discriminating against housing applicants based on race, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, ancestry and creed, the study says.

"Everyone has the right to seek housing where he or she wishes," Arturo Alvarado, executive director of the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center says in a statement. "But the dramatic results of this investigation show that housing discrimination is a pervasive problem in our community and that our public officials must take action now."

The center's investigation is based on 68 tests -- or 34 pairs of people seeking housing. Eleven of the pairs included one Latino tester and one white tester, twelve pairs included one African-American and one white tester and eleven other pairs included one tester with children and one without. The only significant difference between the testers was their race, national origin or family status. The tests were conducted at 28 different apartment sites. (See the map in the report below for the approximate locations of those sites.)

The findings include:

  • In ten out of the eleven tests including a Latino tester -- or 91 percent of the time -- the white testers were treated more favorably than the Latino testers.
  • For example, in 54 percent of the tests, the Latino testers received less information about the apartment's features and amenities, such as parking options, neighborhood perks, storage, utilities and available floor plans.
  • In 36 percent of the tests, the Latino testers were told that fewer units were available. For example, one Latino tester was told there were just two units available while the white tester was told there were four units available.
  • Specials, such as move-in discounts, weren't offered as often to Latino testers.
  • In 18 percent of the tests, the white tester was offered an application and the Latino tester was not. More Latino testers were told they'd have to pass a background check.
  • In eight out of twelve tests including an African-American tester -- or 67 percent of the time -- the white testers were treated more favorably than the African-American testers.
  • A quarter of African-American testers were quoted higher rental prices than white testers for the same apartment when they inquired on the same day. For instance, one white tester was offered a price of $920 for a two-bedroom apartment, while the African-American tester was told that the lowest price would be $1,010.
  • In 17 percent of the tests, the white tester was not asked to show ID before being taken on a tour of the unit or complex but the African-American tester was.
  • In eight out of eleven tests involving families with children -- or 73 percent of the time -- renters without children were treated more favorably than those with them.
  • In 18 percent of the tests, testers with children were steered toward first-floor units or units in specific buildings. One agent told a tester without children that she tries to keep all of the families with kids in the back building.
  • Agents were also more likely to offer to hold apartments for testers without children.

The study concludes with several recommendation on how to improve the situation, including a call for public officials to enforce fair housing laws and for the housing industry to better train its employees on those laws.

Read the entire report below.

Access Denied: Report on Rental Housing Discrimination

More from our News archive: "Defense: Edward Montour wrongly convicted of killing baby before prison murder, execution bid."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at [email protected]