Efforts to narrow the racial wealth divide must address the disparities that are at the heart of our nation's founding and still run through its veins in the 21st century.
The practice of restricting neighborhoods to certain races or incomes was a significant part of America’s segregated past. Discrimination in lending and housing is generally less overt than it used to be, but it’s still a problem.
The National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s fair housing and fair lending teams regularly conduct civil rights testing to determine whether housing providers and lenders comply with civil rights laws. This testing has led to several recent victories against businesses with discriminatory practices. Here are some examples from 2019:
A housing provider in Newport News, Virginia, agreed to a settlement after NCRC’s testing showed that a white “tester” was given substantially better treatment than a Latino tester.
In this case, both testers spoke to the same leasing agent on the same day and inquired about a one-bedroom apartment. The Latino tester was told that there were no one-bedroom units available, while the white tester was told that a one-bedroom unit was available. The white tester was given a tour, and the Latino tester was not.
The housing provider settled with NCRC and agreed to pay $2,500 in damages. The provider also agreed to arrange for its staff to receive civil rights training.
In a similar case in Jacksonville, Florida, a housing provider agreed to a settlement after NCRC’s testing showed that a white tester was given substantially better treatment than an African American tester.
In this case, a white tester and an African American tester spoke to the same agent on the same day. The white tester was given a tour and offered a discount. The African American tester was not offered a tour or a discount. The white tester received a call from the housing provider the next day, while the African American tester was never contacted.
The housing provider settled with NCRC, agreed to pay $1,500 in damages and to arrange for its staff to receive civil rights training.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, NCRC filed a complaint against a housing provider that provided substantially better treatment to an able-bodied tester than to a tester with a disability.
In this case, both testers left messages for the same employee on the same day. One tester mentioned in her message that she uses a wheelchair, while the able-bodied tester mentioned nothing related to disability. The employee of the housing provider only followed up with the able-bodied tester.
The City of Charlotte investigated and charged the housing provider with discrimination. The case is now headed to a public hearing.
These cases show that laws alone are not enough. Even when companies claim to follow the law, their employees can still pick and choose who they work with based on their own personal biases. This results in discrimination in housing, as well as other aspects of life, that still impact the lives of millions of Americans.
Previously published by NCRC.