In July 2007, a Minnesota landlord arranged to show a duplex to a potential renter. But when she arrived at the rental and saw the prospective tenant was black she refused to get out of her car. “No way, it’s not for rent. I can’t do this … I’m not renting to these kinds of people,” the landlord said, according to an investigation of the incident by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The landlord drove away.
In March 2008, Angela and Brian Scherer, who are white, advertised an apartment for rent in Wayne County, Ill. They found a tenant who planned to pay part of her rent with a federal voucher issued by the Wayne County Housing Authority. When Brian Scherer called the housing authority to check on the tenant’s voucher, according to a HUD complaint filed by the Scherers, he was told, “I don’t know if you know this, but they’re black and from St. Louis …You may not want them in your home.” Scherer said he didn’t care as long as they paid rent.
Days later, when another housing authority employee met Angela Scherer to inspect the property, she repeated the warning about the tenant. She said she couldn’t tell Scherer who to rent to, but that she had “friends in the neighborhood and I wouldn’t want a black family living next to me.” After Scherer accused the woman of racism, the housing official said Scherer’s property had failed the inspection.
In August 2008, Celeste Barker found a townhouse advertised in a local Ohio newspaper. When she stopped by the rental office, the property manager told her the office was closed and the townhouse was no longer available, according to HUD. Barker, who is black, suspected discrimination and filed a complaint with a fair housing group. The group had a white tester call to inquire about the rental. The property manager made an appointment to show the tester the apartment the next day. When a black tester called, he once again claimed he had nothing to rent.
Millions Affected, But Few File Complaints
Four decades after Congress made it illegal to deny someone housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex -- later adding disability and familial status in separate legislation -- these stories remain all-too common. According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, African Americans and Latinos experience housing discrimination an estimated 4 million times each year.
Most people never know they’ve faced discrimination when landlords don’t call them back, deny apartments are available, or demand higher rents and deposits than are required from whites tenants. Similarly, it’s rare to discover that a bank funneled you into a higher-priced loan simply because of your race, ethnicity or gender, or that a real estate agent failed to show you homes in white neighborhoods.
Even when people suspect they’ve faced discrimination, proving it can be daunting.
Though millions of instances of discrimination occur each year, only about 10,000 complaints are filed annually with HUD or state or local fair housing enforcement agencies. HUD typically issues charges of discrimination in about 2 percent of the cases it receives.
Share Your Story
Are you one the millions who’ve faced housing discrimination?
Did you suspect you were discriminated against, but thought you couldn’t prove it or that authorities would not do anything about it? Did you know where to file a complaint? If you filed a complaint, did you feel your case was handled well or were you disappointed with the outcome?
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