The first-ever national study of housing discrimination against same-sex couples, released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on June 18, 2013, found that same-sex couples experience unequal treatment in the rental of housing more often than heterosexual couples in every metropolitan area studied. The study further found that gay male couples experience more discrimination than lesbian couples.
The study, titled “An Estimate of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples,” examined possible discrimination in rental properties that were advertised on-line in 50 metropolitan markets across the country in 2011. For each of the nearly 7,000 tests, two emails were sent to the landlord or housing provider — one from a same-sex couple and one from a heterosexual couple. The study looked at the responses of the housing provider to those email inquiries, examining whether the tester was told the unit was available, was asked to contact the landlord, was invited to the see the apartment, or received any response at all.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and family status. While some states, cities, and other local communities have passed laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, federal law does not provide such protection in the private rental market, and North Carolina does not have a law prohibiting such discrimination. However, on February 3, 2012, HUD published a final rule prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status in HUD-funded programs, such as public housing and FHA lending. In addition, HUD has noted that in some circumstances, discrimination based on gender identity could be a form of sex-based discrimination that is prohibited under federal law.
The primary form of adverse treatment same-sex couples encountered in the study was receiving fewer responses to their email inquiries than heterosexual couples did. Ironically, states with legislative protections prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation had slightly more adverse treatment for gays and lesbians than in states without such protections.
In the press release announcing the study, HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Bryan Greene stated:
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.
To read HUD’s press release about the study, click here.
To read the full report, click here.
To read HUD’s “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity” final rule, click here.