The 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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