Same-sex couples experience significantly less favorable treatment than heterosexual couples in the online rental housing market, according to a study published by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Based on 6,833 email correspondence tests in 50 different areas between June 2011 and October 2011, the study, was the first large-scale, paired-testing study to assess housing discrimination against same-sex couples in metropolitan markets in the United States. Each test consisted of sending two emails to the housing provider, each asking about an advertised apartment’s availability. The only difference between the applicants was the sexual orientation of the couple applying. Results of the study showed that heterosexual couples were favored over gay male couples in 15.9 percent of tests and over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent of tests.
Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance said the following about the study:
“This study serves as evidence that there is a dire need to include protections for the LGBT community in the federal Fair Housing Act. More enforcement of these laws is also necessary as discrimination continues at high rates even in states that have these protections for the LGBT community. The HUD study is groundbreaking in both its scope and magnitude. While the discrimination statistics are no surprise, the study itself was a crucial first step that needed to be taken to better understand the extent of housing discrimination against people based simply on their sexual orientation.”
While the Federal Fair Housing Act seeks to prohibit housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability, it does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes.