Study: Black Renters, Voucher Holders Face ‘High Levels' of Discrimination

Data shows high levels of discrimination based on both race and voucher status, according to a Suffolk University study

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Black renters are shown less apartments than white counterparts by real estate agents in Boston and prospective renters attempting to use housing vouchers also face discrimination, a new study shows.

The study, carried out by Suffolk University Law School, used Black and white "testers" who attempted to secure tours of properties.

The study found Black people experienced discrimination in 71 percent of cases.

Of the testers who were not using vouchers, white people were able to arrange apartment viewings 80 percent of the time while Black people were only able to see the same properties 48 percent of the time.

The authors of the study, led by the university's Housing Discrimination Testing Program and Analysis Group, Inc., described their findings as "disheartening."

Titled “Qualified Renters Need Not Apply: Race and Voucher Discrimination in the Metro Boston Housing Market," the study found those who use housing vouchers faced high levels of discrimination in the rental housing market in the Greater Boston area, regardless of their race.

White voucher holders were able to view apartments 12% of the time while Black voucher holders were able to view the same units 18% of the time, the report shows. White people were also shown twice as many apartments and provided better service by housing providers when compared with Black people.

The data revealed real estate professionals are “deeply involved in purveying the discrimination," according to the report.

Greg Vasil, chief executive of Greater Boston Real Estate Board, told the Boston Globe that his organization rejects all discrimination, stating, “We absolutely stand firm: we will not tolerate or condone people who violate those laws,” when it comes to the preservation of fair housing laws in the state.

The authors of the study make several recommendations based on these results, including increasing penalties and training for real estate professionals and prohibiting them from charging broker’s fees. The authors also suggest that policy makers make it easier to suspend a real estate professional’s license for violating anti-discrimination laws.

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