WASHINGTON – Same-sex couples experience unequal treatment more often than heterosexual couples when responding to internet ads for rental units, and findings show that gay male couples experience more discrimination than lesbian couples, according to a groundbreaking study released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The study — An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples — is the nation’s first-ever national study examining housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the private rental market, and examines the treatment same-sex couples receive from rental agents when inquiring about apartments advertised online, as compared to how otherwise similar heterosexual couples are treated.
HUD’s study is based on nearly 7,000 email tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the country between June and October of 2011.
For each paired test, two emails were sent to the housing provider regarding the unit advertised online. The only difference between the emails was whether the couple was same-sex or heterosexual. Unfavorable treatment was measured by whether the tester was told the unit was available, asked to contact the landlord, invited to the see the apartment, or received any response at all.
Key findings of the study showed that:
- Same-sex couples experience discrimination in the online rental housing market, relative to heterosexual couples.
- Adverse treatment is found primarily in the form of same-sex couples receiving fewer responses to the email inquiry than heterosexual couples.
- States with legislative protections show slightly more adverse treatment for gays and lesbians than in states without protections.
- Adverse treatment of same-sex couples is present in every metropolitan area where tests were conducted, but no clear-cut pattern exists in the magnitude of adverse treatment by metropolitan size.
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Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate in rental, sales and lending on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status, however it does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes.
Nonetheless, 20 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 150 cities, towns and counties across the nation have laws that specifically prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals.
“A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing,” said Bryan Greene, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD is committed to making sure that LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.”
The full report is here (PDF).