A report by the Urban Institute, titled A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals, finds that transgender individuals and male homosexual couples face discrimination from housing providers. The report is the first systematic, in-person study of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status.
To detect discrimination, the study used paired testing in which two people with similar characteristics, including age, ethnicity, race, and income, were paired together. The only perceivable difference between the two people was the characteristic tested as the basis for discrimination. In this case, homosexual individuals were paired with heterosexual individuals, both of whom represented themselves part of a couple. Transgender individuals were paired with cisgender individuals who identify with their gender at birth. The authors then measured the difference in treatment the individuals in each test-pair received from housing providers. The measured differences were whether or not each individual was able to make an appointment; if they could make an appointment, the number of units they were told about and shown; and quoted housing costs. The researchers conducted 1,200 in-person tests and 600 remote (telephone or email) tests with lesbian and gay male couples in Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. They also conducted 200 in-person tests with transgender individuals in Washington, DC. Half the transgender testers disclosed their transgender status and half did not, allowing researchers to assess testing protocols.
Gay men were slightly less likely to be able to make an appointment with a housing provider than their heterosexual counterpart. When both paired testers could meet with a provider, gay men were 1.7 percentage points less likely to be told about any available units and were told of .22 fewer units, on average. Housing providers were more likely to show heterosexual men at least one rental unit without any housing-quality problems, but were 8.0 percentage points more likely to quote gay men a higher net housing cost. The average annual net cost quoted to gay men was $272 higher than the cost quoted to their heterosexual counterpart.
Compared to their heterosexual counterparts, lesbian women were equally able to schedule an appointment with a housing provider, but were 1.9% percentage points less likely to be told that at least one unit was available when both paired testers could make an appointment. Lesbian women were told about and shown the same average number of units when both testers were able to make an appointment.
Transgender testers who disclosed their status were 11.0 percentage points less likely to be told that a unit was available and were told about .39 fewer available units on average than cisgender counterparts, when both testers were able to make an appointment with a housing provider. Transgender testers who did not disclose their status were equally likely to be told units were available and told about the same number of units as their cisgender counterparts, but they inspected an average of .32 fewer units than their cisgender counterparts.
The authors identified several limitations of the study, some of which are inherent to paired testing. Researchers can only test for discrimination in the early stages of a housing search that do not require verification of personal information such as credit checks, because testers assume identities with characteristics that are not necessarily their own.
The authors recommend future research to address other limitations, including testing for discrimination against single homosexual individuals (not only couples), expanding tests to a greater number and more diverse set of metropolitan areas, and conducting a larger number of tests with transgender individuals to compare results between transgender men and transgender women.
A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals is available at: http://urbn.is/2t8NLWh