Thursday, June 13, 2013

Housing Discrimination Hasn’t Gone Away, It’s Just Gone Underground

Discrimination in the housing market persists in subtle forms, according to a study by the Urban Institute on behalf of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Using pairs of white and minority participants across 28 metropolitan areas, the Urban/HUD study found that realtors consistently show white buyers more homes than black and Asian buyers with similar credit qualifications and housing interests. There was no such disparity in sales behavior between white and Hispanic consumers, the study found.


The study notes that other research has found a long-term downward trend in housing discrimination over the past 45 years following the 1968 Fair Housing Act. But there has been less progress since 2000 than in previous decades. Some discriminatory practices, such as the racial disparity in whether a realty agent refuses to work with a buyer until they show proof of an approved home loan, have actually gotten worse since the turn of the century.

The study’s findings may seem discouraging, but there are some surprisingly simple steps lawmakers could take to push back on these discriminatory practices. A joint report by the Center for American Progress and the National Council for La Raza identified one such legislative course. By creating a pool of funds for pilot programs designed to expand housing access to those traditionally underserved by the mortgage market, the government could help reduce housing inequality without resorting to heavy regulation.

Such large-scale efforts make sense not only in light of the discrimination identified by the Urban/HUD study, but other persistent disparities in housing. The housing crisis has been harder on minority borrowers –- who were twice as likely as white homeowners to be affected –- and widened the credit-score gap they face as compared to white Americans.

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