HUD Uses “Paired” Testers to Catch Discrimination

helping handsThe owner and manager of a 63-unit building in Cincinnati was charged with discrimination after failing a “paired” test, conducted over the phone. 
According to the charge, a local housing agency recruited two sets of testers–investigators posing as rental applicants, in response to allegations that the apartment complex was “rapidly changing from being predominantly black to predominantly Hispanic.”
The first, an African American tester, called three times in four days, and was given different reasons each time for the manager being unable to schedule an appointment to view an apartment. The final time the tester called, the apartment manager allegedly informed him that she was waiting for another applicant to pay the deposit on the only available unit and suggested he call back in a week.
In contrast, on the next day when a Hispanic tester called to inquire about an available apartment, the apartment manager allegedly offered to show him the unit that day. The Hispanic tester followed up with two more phone calls, during which the apartment manager provided him with information about the unit and suggested how he could reserve it for himself. The Hispanic tester then scheduled an appointment and was able to tour a two-bedroom apartment.Two weeks later, the same two-bedroom apartment was still available when a second African American tester called the apartment complex to inquire about available units. The apartment manager returned his call and informed him that the two-bedroom apartment had been rented and that she did not know when any other unit would be available, and advised him to call back in two weeks. According to the Charge, when the second Hispanic tester called the next day, the apartment manager offered to show him the two-bedroom apartment immediately.

“Fair housing testers are specially trained and are critical to uncovering patterns of different treatment by housing providers. An estimated one in five black and Hispanic housing seekers faces different treatment,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Without paired testing, people may not know they’ve experienced discrimination.”

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