A study released by HUD on June 18 reveals evidence of discriminatory practices against gay and lesbian couples by housing providers in the rental market. The study, titled “An estimate of housing discrimination against same-sex couples,” marks the first nationwide survey of discrimination against same-sex couples. The research focused only on sexual orientation and did not take related issues, such as gender identity and expression, into account.
The study used paired-testing methodology to identify cases of discriminatory behavior. Researchers conducted 6,883 email tests in the rental market in 50 diverse metropolitan areas across the country. Rental housing providers were randomly chosen from listings of available one-bedroom apartments on a national listing website. Lesbian and gay male couples, as well as corresponding heterosexual couples, initiated e-mail contact with the rental housing providers to express interest in a unit. Researchers then recorded the response rates for each pair of testers, as well as whether responses were favorable or unfavorable. Paired-testing methodology is useful as it allows researchers to detect discriminatory housing practices that are not immediately apparent to the victims, such as housing providers’ failure to respond to the inquiries of same-sex but not heterosexual couples.
The study found that it is significantly less likely for same-sex couples to receive favorable e-mail responses from rental housing providers in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. Heterosexual testers received more favorable treatment than gay male couples in 15.9% of tests, and more favorable treatment than lesbian couples in 15.6% of tests. In the majority of cases in which discriminatory behavior occurred, housing providers showed favoritism toward heterosexual couples by replying to their inquiries while leaving e-mails from same-sex couples unanswered. Thus, the housing search is more costly for same-sex couples as they are denied access to available housing units solely due to their sexual orientation.
Researchers also compared rates of discrimination between metropolitan housing markets of different sizes, as well as between states with and without legislative protections against sexual orientation-based housing discrimination. Surprisingly, they found that in states without legislative protections in place, heterosexual couples were favored over same-sex couples at an average rate of 0.6 percentage points less than in protected states. The report attributes this unexpected finding to several possible factors, such as lack of enforcement of protective measures or the fact that legislative protections for same-sex couples may exist in those states where discriminatory behavior is most prevalent. No statistically significant variations in patterns of discrimination were detected based upon metropolitan housing market size.
The report concludes by stating that this study is a starting point for future research on same-sex housing discrimination. The report recommends that future studies include in-person testing and draw from a wider sample of advertised rental housing from print and online sources in order to gain more insight into the prevalence of same-sex housing discrimination across the United States.
On June 18, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the release of the study during a panel presentation on the visibility of LGBT federal employees held at HUD. “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,” commented Secretary Donovan at the event.
Access the complete report at: http://bit.ly/10vMM1m