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newspaperThe Seattle Office for Civil Rights says testing confirms that a significant number of African Americans and people with disabilities face frequent rental housing discrimination.

The commission is filing charges against six property owners for alleged violations.

More than half of all properties tested showed evidence of illegal housing discrimination, according to the SOCR.

“These results confirm that housing discrimination is the reality for many people who live in Seattle,” said Seattle’s Mayor Mike McGinn. “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 fifty-seven tests, including nine re-tests. Twenty-six tests focused on race, using African American and white testers. The other twenty-two tests focused on disability access for people who use a wheelchair or service animal.

They say that overall, 54% of the tests showed evidence of illegal discrimination. In the tests for race-based discrimination, 69% 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% 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.

The tests occurred between January and mid-July, 2011. Those tested were chosen at random. Tests were conducted both in person and over the phone.

The SOCR sent letters to all property owners who were tested informing them of their test results and issued a statement that they are hoping to meet with all those who showed evidence of discrimination to review policies and procedures. SOCR encouraged landlords to undergo professional training.

A list of each of the 57 properties tested, including those retested and those who have been charged with discrimination, was released by SOCR to a local newspaper, which published the list on the Internet, erroneously identifying all those on the list as “allegedly discriminatory.”

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  • gary

    OK, before I begin, I like tenants to pay on time, do not create problems with other tenants and who do not in any way depreciate the sales value of my property. These are the golden big 3 goals I have as a landlord.

    Now for the dirty little secret (not really a secret) nobody likes to talk about. African Americans, as a group, tend to bring down property value via their mere presence in a rental environment. How many upscale condos/housing communities have you seen turn into slums within a relatively short time after the first few blacks took up residence? Sorry, don’t like to say it – just a fact of life. I didn’t invent this – society as a whole did. But as a property owner, I am forced to deal with facts on a day-by-day basis. Why should I have to risk my investment to pay for the racial discrimination in this country? Fact number two: Blacks, as a minority, become a vast majority when it comes to prison population and crime as a whole. That type of behavior is not going to enhance my property value.

    As soon as this country accepts minorities in a non-discriminatory manner, please don’t expect we good folks who provide housing to the masses to put our fiscal well-being on the line to achieve what should be done via other social approaches. In the meantime, the SOCR might consider more effective ways to achieve acceptance into the rental community. They could start by doing something about absentee fathers who act as roaming sperm banks making it possible for the mothers to increasingly lean upon welfare money. If they can’t achieve that, then how about something simple – like convincing their poor jobless souls that wearing their pants down around their knees isn’t really all that cool?

    How about acknowledging that landlords didn’t create discrimination – and looking elsewhere for solutions? Aggravation from groups like SOCR and certain liberal factions merely serve to increase rental costs in the long run.

  • gary

    I submitted a comment yesterday. There is a message saying it’s under “moderation”. Can you share what that means – – and why my comment has not posted?

  • Kim

    Hi Gary,

    Your comment was placed in moderation because of its content.

    First, while I wholeheartedly support your right to express your opinion no matter how controversial, your viewpoint could lead to incriminations of ongoing discrimination. Agree or disagree with the law, regulators have the same access to the comments as anyone else on the Internet. Some of the landlords reading this forum don’t have your level of experience, and I don’t want to risk a dialogue with other landlords who agree with you–and I’m certain there are many, and then see some of you get investigated for housing discrimination.

    I also don’t want to insult those landlords who fall into the racial classification that you discuss in your comment.

    I anguish over moderation decisions because I don’t want to interfere with the discussion. However, the very nature of moderation is to assure that others don’t feel they are being shut out of the discussion, and the sweeping statements that you make would very likely do that to others. Sorry!

    Thanks,
    Kim Ezzell
    Blog Editor

  • Cheryl

    Kim–I am puzzled by your comment that we landords could be investigated as a result of our comments. I thought we enjoyed anonymity on this blog.

    Who exactly is our personal contact information shared with?

  • gary

    It’s indeed sad that the business side of discrimination can’t be discussed in a frank and open manner on this blog. I guess the “offensive” nature of SOCR activities is OK. Opposing views are apparently not welcomed.

    As far as protecting me from some “investigation”, exactly how can we be traced through this blog – as Cheryl asks? At the same time, why not let landlords worry about their own potential investigations? Do you feel groups like SOCR are monitoring this blog and would act in a retaliatory fashion? We get enough so-called protection from the regulatory agencies as it is without a need for you to be concerned. If somebody wants to investigate me for discrimination, I say “Bring it on”. Has it finally reached a point that free speech is a thing to be feared?

    I greatly value this blog and the service it provides to landlords and I thank you. I’m also greatly surprised that this blog would be censored to this extent.

    As a final note, the REAL fear most of us have is that in this down economy, some group like SOCR actually have been given the financial resources to play games with peoples’ ability to make a living and provide a service to everyone.

  • Kim

    Hi Gary,
    I’m sorry that you feel censored — but your comment contains disparaging statements that would likely insult some of our readers and contributors, as would any additional discussion of who makes a good or bad tenant, and it’s not fair for me to let you do that. If you let me take out the personal insults, I’m more than happy to run the comment for discussion.

    Weren’t you at all concerned about the issues the article raises outside of the race discussion– for instance, how can these housing agencies test for discrimination over the phone? Could there be a reason other than race that a landlord reacted to the “persona” that is created for the testers- for instance, maybe the fake tenant is from out of town and the landlord doesn’t want to deal with that?
    Regards, Kim

  • Kim

    Hi Cheryl,
    I was trying to be diplomatic — I don’t see any reason to go out on the Internet and say something that other landlords have been fined for saying — no, I don’t think regulators are monitoring our blog, but the point is comments on a blog are accessible on the Internet. If you were a regulator researching discrimination and you came across a big string of racist comments, wouldn’t it attract your attention? But I also mentioned that I won’t post comments that are insulting to some of our readers because they don’t deserve that. So I pulled a comment that was inflammatory because the resulting discussion would not take us to a happy place. I’ve invited Gary to rephrase it because there are some very valuable points that he raises. Regards, Kim

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