Editorial: Probe discrimination in housing practices

Submitted by News Desk on Thu, 08/07/2008 - 10:00pm

IN THE 21ST CENTURY, one would have thought housing discrimination in the Bay Area was a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that apparently is not the case.

The Eden Council for Hope and Opportunity, a publicly supported nonprofit housing counseling agency, conducted tests in nine Bay Area communities and found landlords discriminated in 29 percent of the cases.

As the group's report concludes, "Although the days of seeing signs displaying the words, 'No coloreds' are long gone, the threads of racism continue to appear in the fabric of our American way of life."

The tests were rather simple: The group sent people to respond to newspaper and Internet advertisements. First, the group sent a black woman; next, it sent a white woman. The pairs were closely matched except for race. The results were startling. Of the 111 tests conducted during the 2007-08 fiscal year, 32 revealed inferior treatment of the minority applicant.

The tests were conducted in Livermore, Pleasanton, Redwood City, San Leandro, Union City, Cupertino, Hayward, unincorporated Alameda County and urban parts of Santa Clara County.

The discrimination came in many different forms: The minority tester was quoted a higher rent, a greater deposit or tougher credit and income requirements.

In other cases, the landlord only called back the white applicant or showed her more units to choose from. In one case, the landlord sent the white applicant a thank-you card but did not show the same courtesy to the black applicant.

Clearly, some of the discrimination was more subtle. But that does not matter because none of it is acceptable. Not only is it morally wrong, it's illegal under state and federal laws.

City, county and state officials should conduct similar tests in other communities and crack down on wayward landlords.