Every year, there are more than four million incidents of housing discrimination that occur in the United States. Yet these incidents are tremendously underreported, particularly within the Latino community. A new NCLR and Equal Rights Center (ERC) report, "Puertas Cerradas: Housing Barriers for Hispanics," takes a closer look at the housing experience of Hispanics in three Southern cities: Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Antonio, Texas. Although the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on national origin, our investigation reveals that Latinos continue to face adverse or differential treatment when trying to buy or rent a home.
The federal government's failure to pass any kind of meaningful immigration reform has encouraged states and municipalities to act as immigration regulators and craft their own misguided anti-immigrant policies. State laws such as Arizona's infamous SB 1070 and Alabama's even more egregious H.B. 87 -- both of which effectively codify racial profiling -- have stoked a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that affects all Latinos regardless of citizenship status. As a result, all aspects of life have been affected by this increasingly hostile environment, in particular Latino families' equal access to housing.
Using a "matched pair" methodology, Hispanic and White non-Hispanic testers with virtually identical profiles interacted with housing agents in various scenarios. In San Antonio and Atlanta, the ERC conducted 50 phone tests and 25 in-person tests, while in Birmingham, the ERC conducted 75 in-person tests. What we discovered was troubling:
Despite the protections afforded in the Fair Housing Act, discrimination by national origin persists. Puertas Cerradas sheds light on housing discrimination in only three cities, but this type of adverse and differential treatment goes underreported elsewhere. We know that steps that can be taken, however, to mitigate housing discrimination toward the Latino community:
Our country needs a more just housing system, one that supports a person's right to live where they choose and also enforces fair housing laws. When all members of the community enjoy fair and equitable access to housing choices, we can create more long-term wealth and, in turn, strengthen all aspects of community life.
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