Report Finds Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals

Report Finds Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals

A recent report by the Urban Institute, titled A Paired-Testing Pilot Study of Housing Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples and Transgender Individuals, finds that transgender individuals and male homosexual couples face discrimination from housing providers. The report is the first systematic, in-person study of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status.

To detect discrimination, the study used paired testing in which two people with similar characteristics, including age, ethnicity, race, and income, were paired together. The only perceivable difference between the two people was the characteristic tested as the basis for discrimination. In this case, homosexual individuals were paired with heterosexual individuals, both of whom represented themselves as part of a couple. Transgender individuals were paired with cisgender individuals (who identify with their gender at birth). The authors then measured the difference in treatment the individuals in each test-pair received from housing providers.

The measured differences were whether or not each individual was able to make an appointment; if they could make an appointment, the number of units they were told about and shown; and quoted housing costs. The researchers conducted 1,200 in-person tests and 600 remote (telephone or email) tests with lesbian and gay male couples in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. They also conducted 200 in-person tests with transgender individuals in Washington, D.C.

Researchers found that housing providers told gay men about one fewer available unit on every 4.2 tests than they told heterosexual men about, were slightly less likely to schedule an appointment with gay men, and quoted gay men average yearly rent costs that were $272 higher.

Housing providers were about equally likely to schedule an appointment with lesbians and with heterosexual women, told them about and showed them approximately the same number of rentals, and provided comparable information about rents and incentives. Differences across treatment measures of availability and inspections consistently disadvantaged lesbian testers, but the differences generally were small and not statistically significant.

Housing providers told transgender testers about fewer rentals than they told cisgender testers, regardless of the protocol used. Transgender testers who disclosed their gender status were less likely to be told about available rentals on average. They were, however, more likely to be allowed to view available units than transgender testers who did not disclose.