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Study finds racial discrimination in real estate practices

Published: Wednesday, June 12 2013 2:30 p.m. MDT

On average, minority groups are given fewer opportunities by real estate agents to look at available homes.

For example, African-Americans are shown 4.2 percent fewer units than white inquirers, according to a study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The numbers get even worse with Hispanic and Asian renters. According to the report, Hispanics are shown 7.5 percent fewer home options than their white counterparts, and Asians are given 6.6 percent fewer tours of possible home purchases.

“For much of the twentieth century, discrimination by private real estate agents and rental property owners helped establish and sustain stark patterns of housing and neighborhood inequality,” the report said. “Looking forward, national fair housing policies must continue to adapt to address the patterns of discrimination and disparity that persist today.”

The study, which is based on tests performed in 28 metropolitan areas and cost roughly $9 million, shows that while real estate discrimination is traceable, the indicators of unequal treatment are subtle.

“Enforcement strategies should not rely primarily on individual complaints of suspected discrimination,” the study concluded. But instead, local fair housing organizations should “conduct more proactive testing, especially in the sales market, where discrimination appears higher than in the rental market.”

Some reporters, such as Adam Serwer of MSNBC, have been quick to point out the limitations of the survey.

“The study did not measure disparate treatment that may occur after the individual seeking the home actually tries to rent or buy it,” Serwer wrote on Tuesday referencing a report by the Department of Justice that shows racial disparities in loans during the recession.

The report itself also acknowledges shortcomings in the research, saying that the level of discrimination is likely higher than their numbers indicate.

JJ Feinauer is a graduate of Southern Virginia University and an intern for the Moneywise page on DeseretNews.com. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @johnorjj.

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