Even as congressional leaders in Washington are debating sweeping legislation that would reform the plagued U.S. immigration system, national origin discrimination against immigrants and Latino citizens continues to prevail on the home front.

Today, the ERC and The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) —the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—unveiled the results of a testing-based investigation documenting adverse and differential treatment against prospective Latino renters and homebuyers in Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Antonio, Texas.

The report, titled “Puertas Cerradas: Housing Barriers for Hispanics,” documents the results of 225 matched-pair tests conducted by the ERC in the three major U.S. metropolitan areas. In 95 of the 225 tests conducted (42 percent), the Latino tester experienced at least one form or adverse, differential treatment as compared to their counterpart white tester.

“While the FHA expressly prohibits discrimination based on national origin, this discrimination has not gone away, and in today’s highly charged political climate, it has gotten worse,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC.  “This report and its underlying testing clearly show that the Latino community continues to be targeted. It is critical that the community is informed about how to identify and report incidents of discrimination, and that [the community] knows that there are advocates, like the ERC, to help them maneuver through the process.”

Some of the differential treatment experienced by Latino testers included:

  • Housing agents were less receptive to schedule an appointment with Latino testers than with their matched white testers;
  • Agents provided Latino testers with fewer options than matched white testers in terms of other homes for sale or number of units available for rent;
  • In sales tests, agents provided white testers with lender recommendations or other advantageous financing information that was not provided to their matched Latino testers;
  • In rental tests, agents quoted higher fees, costs, and/or more extensive application requirements to Latino testers than to their matched white testers; and
  • In many cases, agents provided follow-up contact via phone or email to the white testers but not to their matched Latino testers.

 

The ERC testing utilized a “matched-pair” methodology, in which Latino and non-Latino white testers with virtually identical profiles interacted with housing agents in a variety of scenarios. In both San Antonio and Atlanta, the ERC conducted 50 phone tests and 25 in-person tests, in which trained ERC testers contacted real estate agents and inquired about buying a home that had an online listing.  In Birmingham, the ERC conducted 75 in-person tests, in which trained ERC testers contacted housing providers about an apartment listed for rent.

In addition to the test findings, the report also includes several recommendations to address these findings:

  • Increase funding for public awareness campaigns and immigrant-specific outreach on fair housing issues;
  • Provide additional funding to nonprofit fair housing organizations that conduct civil rights testing;
  • Partner with local advocacy groups who can gather real-time evidence in specific high-impact localities;
  • Enforce penalties when fair housing discrimination occurs;
  • Build coalitions that include both immigration and fair housing advocates.

 

The report was jointly released by NCLR and the ERC during NCLR’s 2013 Annual Conference in New Orleans, at a workshop of housing experts addressing issues at the intersection of fair housing laws and immigrants’ rights. This report will serve as an important resource and advocacy tool, and underscores the continued need to stay vigilant and champion for the rights of immigrant communities across the county. Through testing and advocacy, the ERC will tirelessly continue promoting its mission until equal housing opportunity for ALL people is realized.

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