HUD finds bias against gay couples in rental market


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on June 18 released the first-ever national study on housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the private rental market.

The study looked at how rental agents treated same-sex couples who inquired about apartments advertised online.

HUD said the same-sex couples experienced unequal treatment more often than heterosexual couples, and male same-sex couples experienced more discrimination than female same-sex couples.

The study was based on nearly 7,000 email tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets in 2011. For each paired test, two emails were sent to a housing provider regarding a 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.

Releasing the study, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, “Following the president’s lead, HUD has taken historic steps in the area of fair housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation’s commitment to equality. As this study shows, we need to continue our efforts to ensure that everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Bryan Green, HUD acting assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said, “A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing. HUD is committed to making sure that LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.”

HUD found:

•  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.