Seattle Tests Show Frequent Rental Housing Discrimination

Housing discrimination occurs frequently in Seattle, according to test results recently released by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR). According to SOCR, more than half of all properties tested showed evidence of illegal housing discrimination.

“These results confirm that housing discrimination is the reality for many people who live in Seattle,” Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement. “That is simply not acceptable. The actions that we are taking as a response to these results will help us to become a more equitable city.”

SOCR conducted a total of 57 tests, including nine re-tests. Twenty-six tests focused on race, using African-American and white testers. The other 22 tests focused on disability access for people who use a wheelchair or service animal. All on-site and telephone testing was concluded by mid-July, 2011.

Overall, 54 percent of the tests showed evidence of illegal discrimination. In the tests for race-based discrimination, 69 percent showed patterns of inconsistencies that generally favored white testers. The inconsistencies included quoting a higher rent to African-American testers, not telling African-American testers about move-in specials, or using different screening criteria with African-American testers, including credit or criminal background checks.

In the tests for disability-based discrimination, 36 percent showed patterns of inconsistencies that create barriers for people with disabilities. The inconsistencies included refusing to accommodate service animals, not telling testers about available units, or not providing parking areas with spots designated for people with disabilities.

“We’re filing charges in six cases where the differences in treatment based on race or disability are unambiguous,” SOCR Director Julie Nelson said in a statement. “Where we find clear evidence of discrimination, we must act to protect the public.”

In addition, SOCR has offered resources and training to the managers of 24 additional properties where testing showed some evidence of different treatment but not enough to warrant charges.

Source: Seattle Office for Civil Rights