Housing Discrimination – Meaning, Types, Examples, and Actions to Take
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Housing discrimination manifests in diverse ways and frequently occurs when marginalised individuals seek housing.
This article explores the different manifestations of housing discrimination, offering illustrative instances to comprehend this issue better. Our goal is to empower you with knowledge on recognising and preventing housing discrimination, whether for yourself or someone you know.
What Is Housing Discrimination?
Housing discrimination refers to the unlawful act of treating individuals unequally based on their protected attributes when renting, selling, financing, or advertising housing. These protected characteristics encompass race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, family status, sexual orientation, and disability.
Such discriminatory practices can manifest in various ways. For instance, landlords might decline to rent to individuals because of their race or national origin. A mortgage lender could reject a well-qualified borrower’s loan application based on the person’s perceived gender or sexual orientation. On a more fundamental level, an architect might neglect to incorporate the necessary accessibility features when designing new housing developments.
Types of Housing Discrimination
As shown earlier, housing discrimination exhibits a range of forms and often occurs simultaneously on multiple grounds. Broadly, the foundations for such discrimination can be classified as follows:
1. Housing Discrimination Based on Race or Color
While racial discrimination in housing is prohibited by law, regrettably, it persists. In certain instances, individuals of colour face rejection for leases or mortgages solely based on their skin colour. In other cases, they may be directed towards particular neighbourhoods associated with high crime rates, limited access to quality schools, or other negative attributes.
This discriminatory practice, often called ‘redlining,’ significantly restricts housing choices for people of colour and contributes to forming segregated communities. Racial discrimination in housing is ethically unjust and exacerbates socioeconomic inequalities among racial groups.
2. Housing Discrimination Based on Disability
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 aims to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all aspects of public life, including housing. The ADA mandates landlords to accommodate tenants with mental or physical disabilities reasonably and refrain from denying them housing or treating them differently.
Regrettably, in the United States, some landlords may seek to evict tenants with disabilities, neglect necessary repairs, or fail to incorporate accessibility features into their rental units. In other instances, discrimination by landlords may lead to higher rents or increased deposits for tenants with disabilities.
The presence of discrimination against people with disabilities in the housing market, coupled with inadequate healthcare services, underscores the imperative need for significant changes to address these issues.
3. Housing Discrimination Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation, Including Sexual Harassment
Gender and sexual orientation-related discrimination remains a persistent issue within housing. This type of discrimination can manifest in various ways, including landlords declining to rent to women or transgender individuals and instances of sexual harassment by landlords.
Regrettably, it is common for landlords and property owners to inflict physical and emotional harm on prospective tenants in cases of housing discrimination. Victims of gender-based housing discrimination often encounter challenges securing appropriate housing, resulting in financial instability and severe health repercussions. Additionally, queer couples may face housing denials based on the perception that their relationship does not align with the landlord’s values.
4. Housing Discrimination Based on Religion
The most apparent type of discrimination based on religion occurs when a landlord communicates to potential tenants that a particular apartment is unavailable due to the landlord’s unwillingness to rent to individuals of a particular religious faith.
Alternatively, a lending institution might decline to grant a loan to purchase a house or apartment if the buyer intends to use it as a residence for adherents of a specific religion. In recent instances of housing discrimination, there have also been cases involving zoning practices that create challenges or make it nearly impossible for members of religious groups to gather and worship together in their residences or local communities.
5. Housing Discrimination Based on National Origin
This kind of discrimination can manifest as denying rental or sale opportunities to individuals due to their country of origin or applying disparate terms or conditions based on nationality. Drawing conclusions about a person’s capabilities or character solely on their ethnic background and making housing-related decisions based on such assumptions also constitutes national origin discrimination.
6. Housing Discrimination Based on Familial Status
Housing discrimination rooted in familial status can encompass various actions, from declining rental applications from families with children to imposing elevated rental rates or security deposits. It can also extend to making unwarranted threats or remarks about someone’s family situation, such as asserting that a tenant with young children is ‘too noisy’ or claiming that an expectant mother ‘takes up too much space.’
This form of discrimination is fundamentally unfair and frequently compels families to move to less desirable neighbourhoods, compromise on school access, or incur higher expenses to secure better housing for their children and shield them from the potential hazards of lower-quality housing alternatives.
7. Age Discrimination in Housing
Landlords are prohibited from engaging in age-based discrimination, meaning they cannot refuse to rent to senior citizens or impose distinct rules on their tenancy compared to others. This principle holds even if you’re 80 years old and need regular assistance from a caregiver. As long as you possess a strong credit history and favourable references, a landlord does not have a legal basis to deny your tenancy.
Examples of Housing Discrimination
The following are examples of housing discrimination:
- Denying rental or sales opportunities
- Making housing inaccessible
- Establishing disparate terms, conditions, or privileges for home sales or rentals
- Declining to negotiate housing deals
- Employing distinct qualification criteria or applications for different applicants or utilizing varying sale or rental standards and procedures
- Falsely asserting that housing is not open for inspection, purchase, or rental.
- Encouraging property owners to sell or rent their properties for profit (a practice known as blockbusting)
- Prohibiting individuals from accessing or participating in facilities or services related to housing sales or rentals
- Withholding mortgage loans or other financial support for home purchasing in mortgage lending.
How to Fight Housing Discrimination
This is how to take action and fight housing discrimination
- If you have experienced such discrimination, you can submit a complaint to the Fair Housing authorities or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- you can contact your state’s fair housing agency or the human rights commission within your local government for assistance and guidance.
- For a thorough understanding of your rights and available courses of action, consulting with an experienced housing discrimination attorney can be beneficial. They can assist you in comprehending your options and guide you through the process of seeking justice.
We need to address housing discrimination and inequality with greater urgency. It’s crucial that everyone, regardless of their background, has equal access to suitable housing opportunities.