[StBernard] Racial bias in local housing market is widespread

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun Apr 29 15:11:58 EDT 2007

Racial bias in local housing market is widespread
April 30, 2007

On Tuesday, April 24, 2007, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action
Center (GNOFHAC) revealed the results of its recent investigation into
race-based rental discrimination in the New Orleans area, including Orleans,
Jefferson, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany parishes. The investigation showed
that 57.5 percent of landlords discriminated against African-American
testers searching for rental housing.

The report, titled "For Rent, Unless You're Black," underscores what many
New Orleanians living in exile in other parts of the U.S. have been saying
since the levees broke 20 months ago: Business owners are making it
increasingly difficult for displaced black New Orleanians to make it home.

GNOFHAC conducted the investigation through the use of fair housing testing,
a process whereby equally suited black and white testers attempt to apply
for housing. GNOFHAC compared and contrasted tester experiences to determine
whether or not discrimination occurred.

The probe was conducted across the New Orleans metropolitan area between
September 2006 and April 2007. Rental units were randomly selected from
print and Internet listings of available units on a pro-rata basis in each
parish and tested.

Twenty tests were conducted in Jefferson Parish, 10 tests were conducted in
St. Tammany, nine were conducted in Orleans and one test was conducted in
St. Bernard.

Testers encountered discrimination in various forms. For example, black
testers were told apartments were not available when their white
counterparts were told the same units were available; landlords provided
black testers with less favorable terms and conditions for the rental of
properties than their white counterparts; and in several instances, black
testers did not receive promised return phone calls while the same landlords
returned all calls of their white counterparts.

Differential treatment occurred in 50 percent of the tests conducted in
Jefferson Parish. Differential treament occurred in 60 percent of the tests
conducted in St. Tammany Parish. Orleans Parish testers found differential
treatment in 55 percent of their cases and differential treatment occurred
in 100 percent of the St. Bernard Parish tests. Again, it should be noted
that only one test was conducted in St. Bernard Parish.'

"The types of differential treatment documented in the rental audit confirm
that discriminatory practices in housing can be quite subtle and and
oftentimes not even recognized by victims without the benefit of comparison
to applicants of other races," the report reads. "Discriminatory treatment
in the investigation never consisted of the use of racial slurs or express
policies of refusing to rent to protected class testers. Instead, strategies
were covert. Housing providers simply didn't return phone calls from
African-American testers, didn't provide applications to African-American
testers, and/or didn't show available rental units to African-American
testers. However subtle, generally each of these practices are prohibited
under fair-housing law."

"Already, an alarming number of local politicians in Orleans, Jefferson and
surrounding parishes have actively tried to discourage the poor
-disproportionately Black, Latino, single mothers, disabled and the elderly
- from returning home by blocking the construction of multi-family housing
in their districts, towns or parishes," GNPFHAC board president Anthony Keck
said in the report's foreword. "The prevalent but unchallenged notion in our
public discourse off 'not wanting to concentrate poverty' is more of an
insult than a remedy. Who is deciding what level of income and housing price
is good and what level is bad? Why don't we instead 'concentrate' on
building the local small businesses, parks, schools, police force and health
clinics to support vibrant communities regardless of class, income, race,
disability and national origin? It may simply be easier for our leaders to
tear down rather than build up."

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry comments "We are disappointed to find
such a high rate of discrimination in this investigation. However, the Fair
Housing Action Center hopes that the study will inform housing consumers of
their rights under fair housing laws. Equal access to housing is a civil
right and an essential component in the rebuilding process. Housing
providers should be aware that the Fair Housing Action Center will pursue
enforcement of all violations covered by applicable fair housing laws."

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