PROPERTY IS POWER! Housing Discrimination: How does it affect you?

by Anthony Kellum

Although the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (prohibiting the discrimination of the sale, rent and financing of housing based on gender, national origin, race and religion) sought to eradicate housing inequality and segregation, which was the norm of the 20th Century and in many ways still is today. Although the act of 1968 was designed to erase discrimination, the actions of the federal government and numerous financial institutions played a “critical role” in the creation and endurance of racist housing policies (Forbes Article, A Look At Housing Inequality In The U.S., Dima Williams.)

As recently as August 2020 many of you may have heard about the bi-racial couple in Florida whose home appraisal increased by 40 percent when they removed all evidence of Black people living in the home, such as family photos and books from Black authors. Prior to removing many sentimental artifacts and ethnic artwork, the couple’s home was given a much lower appraisal compared to other homes in their neighborhood, with fewer bedrooms, fewer bathrooms, significantly lower square footage and half the land, according to Abena Horton (Florida mother, wife and lawyer whose home was appraised at 40 percent less than her neighborhood.) When selling a home in most Black communities it is common knowledge to remove the pictures and any remnants that a Black family owns the home, but to have to do that in an appraisal as well? One would think the banks conducting the appraisals would be above reproach. Horton states, “Racism silently but conspicuously steals wealth.” Asking herself, “Why did I let myself forget that I live in America as a Black person and that I need to take some extra steps to get a fair result?” she said.

As the owner of the Property Is Power brand, it has been my life mission to put a stop to the likes of the discrimination described above. With this in mind, I ask, “what are some of the steps, we can do today to stop the oppression that systematic racism has bestowed on our community for decades?”

Well… one thing we can do is to identify and call out housing discrimination when it occurs. This is something everyone is capable of doing and can be accomplished by:

Paired Testing: In a paired test, two people are assigned fictitious identities and qualifications. They are comparable in every way—except for the characteristic being tested, such as race or ethnicity. When almost-identical home-seekers receive unequal treatment from landlords and real estate agents, paired testing essentially catches discrimination in the act.

In order to overcome the ongoing assault of housing discrimination and the tradition of land use regulations and zoning policies, a multi-tiered approach is needed this includes the below:

  • The vigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination protections and proactive testing to uncover otherwise undetected forms of differential treatment, including on social media and other online platforms.
  • Public education and outreach to residents about housing rights and opportunities and what to do if they suspect or witness unfair treatment in any venue.
  • Incentives to encourage affordable housing development and neighborhood reinvestment and to reach and serve historically underserved communities.

When combined, these efforts can help grow and sustain inclusivity and high-opportunity communities that give residents access to good schools, jobs, transportation, wealth building and other important services (Urban Wire: Housing and Finance.)

As we continue to evolve and as attitudes toward residential diversity continue to intensify policymakers and fair housing practitioners will continue to need reliable evidence other than what is on the forms, various incidences, and targets of discrimination but also on other factors that may contribute to segregation and disparities in neighborhoods, such as information gaps, local regulatory policies, stereotypes, and fear(Urban Wire: Housing and Finance.)

In some aspects, since our culture is becoming more sophisticated with the continued methods to reach corners of the housing market, both online and offline, it has become increasingly more difficult to uncovering discriminatory practices, which may otherwise go undetected, making it evident that continued paired-testing studies are necessary to level the buying field.

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