By Melanie Nathan, Feb 25, 2013.
Fair Housing of Marin conducted two race discrimination audits in Solano County and the City of Richmond, during 2011, that revealed multiple instances of race discrimination.
Fair Housing of Marin’s investigation uncovered evidence that multiple housing providers consistently offered Caucasian testers better terms and more attractive conditions than similarly-situated African-American testers. Specifically, Caucasian testers were offered lower security deposits, lower or non-existent minimum income requirements, increased availability, more flexible lease terms, and more information about amenities and encouragement to apply than similarly-situated African-American testers.
Among many examples, a leasing agent told an African-American tester that the security deposit was nearly $1,000, and that there was a 3x-monthly rent minimum income requirement. In stark contrast, a Caucasian tester at the same property was told that the security deposit could be as low as $500, and that there was no minimum income requirement. At another property, leasing agents provided African-American and Caucasian testers with different applications: only the African-American tester was asked whether he had any criminal convictions. At yet another property, the Caucasian tester was offered a $200 move-in special and quoted a lower minimum income requirement than the African-American tester. Based on evidence of pervasive and systemic race discrimination across two counties, FHOM filed several administrative complaints with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
With legal representation by Fair Housing of Marin Staff Attorney Jessica Tankersley Sparks, Fair Housing of Marin reached a series of settlements with housing providers representing more than 2,350 rental units at six separate properties in the cities of Benicia, Richmond, and Vallejo, California, which included fair housing training and payment of $38,000 in damages to the agency. These funds will go directly to provide free counseling, enforcement, mediation, and legal or administrative referrals to persons experiencing housing discrimination.
“It is truly discouraging that even today, in the Bay Area — known for its progressive and liberal population — we find such glaring differences in treatment simply on the basis of race,” said Malinda Tuazon, a board member at Fair Housing of Marin. “African-Americans are required to save more and earn more to qualify for the same housing as whites. If not for our testing evidence, housing providers could continue to have these discriminatory policies without detection and without accountability.”
About Fair Housing of Marin
Fair Housing of Marin is a non-profit organization that provides free counseling, enforcement, mediation, and legal or administrative referrals to persons experiencing housing discrimination. Fair Housing of Marin provides services in English and Spanish; translation is available for other languages. Fair Housing of Marin also offers advice and seminars to help housing providers to fully understand fair housing laws.
The mission of Fair Housing of Marin is to support human rights in all aspects of our lives and welcome the richness that diversity brings to our children, our neighborhoods and all of us. At Fair Housing of Marin we believe that people learn to live together by living together.