( In this Jan. 20, 2009 file photo, bank repo, foreclosure and for sale signs sit outside a foreclosed home in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File))

Minorities face more subtle housing discrimination, new study says

While housing opportunities for Latinos and other minorities have improved, a new study released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute finds that Hispanics, Asians, and African-Americans learn about fewer housing options than their equally qualified white counterparts. While minority families are rarely outright denied an appointment to see an advertised house or apartment, real estate agents and rental housing providers recommend and show fewer available apartments and homes than they do for white families, the study says.

The Urban Institute, which conducted the study, used a paired testing methodology in which two trained individuals posed as equally qualified home seekers. More than 8,000 paired tests occurred in 28 metropolitan areas.

“At the start of the process, people of color inquire into getting an appointment to learn about a specific available unit. But that’s where the equal treatment stops,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said on a conference call with reporters. The study is the fourth in a series of national studies sponsored by HUD each decade to measure discrimination since 1979.

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Among minority groups, Hispanics fare the worst when it comes to renting. According to the study, Hispanic renters who contact agents learn about 12.5 percent fewer units and are shown 7.5 percent fewer units than white people. For African-Americans, they were told about 11.4 percent fewer units and shown 4.2 percent less. Asian Americans were told about 9.8 fewer units than white people and shown 6.6 percent less.

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Donovan emphasized that the implications of housing discrimination are far reaching and can hinder access to education and jobs.

“There is nothing that limits choice more than not having affordable and fair housing in places where the schools are good and there’s lots of jobs,”  Donovan said. “These are families being denied their fair shot at the American Dream.”

But it wasn’t all bad news for Latinos. Hispanic homeowners were not found to be discriminated against in numbers large enough to be statistically significant. Researchers said that while the findings were slightly surprising, they were reflective of longer term trends of declining discrimination against Hispanic home buyers. Other minorities faced steep discrimination when it came to home ownership. Asians and blacks were shown 18.8 and 17.7 percent fewer homes respectively.

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Still, the Urban Institute’s Margery Turner emphasized that the study is an underestimate of the challenges Latinos and other minorities face in getting fair access to housing.

“We can’t capture all forms of discrimination. Testers presented themselves as unambiguously qualified. It probably understates the discrimination that occurs in the market today, ” she said.

HUD’s report cost approximately 9 million dollars.

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