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Gay Couples Face Housing Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Policy Development and Research have released a new study that concludes that same-sex couples face significant discrimination in housing. It’s the first national study of its kind and it looked at 50 metropolitan areas.

In the study, emails were sent to landlords advertising a property available for rent. Some of the emails indicated that they were from a straight couple, some indicated that they were from a gay couple. The emails from gay couples were “significantly less likely” to get a reply:

The research is based on 6,833 e-mail correspondence tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the United States from June through October 2011. For each correspondence test, two e-mails were sent to the housing provider, each inquiring about the availability of the unit advertised on the Internet. The only difference between the two e-mails was the sexual orientation of the couple making the inquiry. Two sets of correspondence tests were conducted, one assessing the treatment of gay male couples relative to heterosexual couples and one assessing the
treatment of lesbian couples relative to heterosexual couples. This methodology provides the first direct evidence of discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples compared with the treatment of heterosexual couples when searching for rental housing advertised on the Internet in the United States.

The study finds that same-sex couples experience less favorable treatment than heterosexual couples in the online rental housing market. The primary form of adverse treatment is that same-sex couples receive significantly fewer responses to e-mail inquiries about advertised units than heterosexual couples. Study results in jurisdictions with state-level protections against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unexpectedly show slightly more adverse treatment of same-sex couples than results in jurisdictions without such protections. This study provides an important initial observation of discrimination based on sexual orientation at the threshold stage of the rental transaction and is a point of departure for future research on housing discrimination against same-sex couples.

But in those cities and states where housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is banned, there is at least some legal recourse for those who are discriminated against. This is why we need federal anti-discrimination legislation to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    It would be interesting to compare the reactions of potential renters to same sex male couples as opposed to same sex female couples.

  2. Ben P says

    Some interesting personal experience. When I changed jobs a couple months ago I moved and am renting out my house. Because I now live several hours away I hired a management company to rent out my house for me.

    They have a quite deliberate policy that I don’t see personal details of the tenants they’re renting too. I know that I’m renting to two males in their late 20′s, that one of them has a dog and that they passed the background and credit checks the management company ran. That’s it. They explained this was to cover themselves from any anti-discrimination claims in their own operations, and I was fine with that.

    I do drive by when I’m in town and check the exterior of the house to make sure the neighbors who know me aren’t getting pissed, (lease says tenants are to take care of the lawn) but that’s about the extent of my interaction, I’ve never met the tenants in my house personally. I find it interesting that I had just assumed roommates, and although that’s probably more likely given where I live, that’s not definitely the case, although I certainly wouldn’t care either way. (I might actually expect a gay couple to be better tenants than single 20 something guys).

  3. jamessweet says

    Study results in jurisdictions with state-level protections against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unexpectedly show slightly more adverse treatment of same-sex couples than results in jurisdictions without such protections.

    This result could be really important, if it were replicated and shown to be robust. (That’s an important “if”, by the way) One possible explanation is that some small fraction of renters are afraid to reply, because then if it doesn’t work out they fear legal recriminations. If they don’t reply to the e-mail, they can just say they didn’t get it…. which might seem safer to them.

    I am extremely skeptical of these sorts of “unintended consequences” arguments regarding anti-discrimination statutes, and that’s why I wouldn’t change my mind unless the results were shown to be robust. But it’s also why it catches my eye…

  4. Abdul Alhazred says

    It would be mighty surprising if there weren’t discrimination against gay couples.

  5. says

    This is why we need federal anti-discrimination legislation to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.”

    Oh, sure, it sounds like a good idea now, but when The Gays are forcing their way in to your home, then you’ll see! You’ll see!

  6. davefitz says

    Hell, I’d rather rent to gays. Friendly as hell and they take pride in their neighborhoods. Unlike us filthy breeders. ;)

  7. escuerd says

    jamessweet @3

    I am extremely skeptical of these sorts of “unintended consequences” arguments regarding anti-discrimination statutes, and that’s why I wouldn’t change my mind unless the results were shown to be robust. But it’s also why it catches my eye…

    Basically the same thing I was thinking.

    But I wanted to add that even if this result is robust, it doesn’t tell us whether there is a reduction in discrimination after the initial email stage. It may well be that many gay people who initially reply to an ad don’t make their sexual orientation immediately apparent and then face problems with no recourse later when the landlord realizes this. Just one more reason I’m skeptical of an unintended consequences argument in this case (which is not to say it should be discounted).

  8. Karen Locke says

    After decades as a military wife, moving here and there, her husband retired, then died, and my husband’s grandmother Blanche found herself owner of a mansion in San Francisco that had been converted to a Residential Hotel. She lived on the first floor, and rented out studio apartments on the second and third floors. This was ages ago… 1960s, maybe.

    When gay couples started moving into the neighborhood, Blanche was totally freaked. But she didn’t let it show, she was too well trained as a Gracious Southern Belle. Her gay neighbors warmed up to her, and to her surprise she found herself warming up to them; sexual orientation started to matter less and less. They adopted her as a kind of elderly aunt, and worried about her when she wasn’t seen doing her usual routine. During her last days, when she was dying. they were in the queue to visit her or learn about her condition, along with her renters (she got along really well with most of her renters).

    In the last decade of her life, if she’d had an apartment suitable for a couple, Blanche would have totally rented to gays.

    You’ve got to make people see other sexual orientations as irrelevant on a one-by-one basis. It’s unfortunate, but it’s been my experience with many more instances than this.

  9. says

    Ed:

    I think that this study is probably replicated ad nauseum with people of color, unmarried couples and various “OTHER” types since the first, “Cave to let” sign appeared.

    What it tells me is that the notion of teh GAY being human is okay, in the abstract, with a lot of non-gay folks; the notion of having a guy like THAT marry YOUR brother is still a bit much!

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