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Study Finds: Criminal Background Policies Used As Cover For Discrimination

Posted on 28. Sep, 2015 by

New Orleans, LA—On Monday, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) released a new investigation revealing that New Orleans area housing providers treated prospective renters with criminal backgrounds differently based on the applicants’ race.

GNOFHAC conducted a testing investigation of 50 area housing providers, in which mystery shoppers posing as prospective renters inquired about rental availability and the apartment’s criminal background policy.  Of the 50 site-visit tests conducted, African American testers experienced discrimination 50% of the time.

Testing revealed that agents often provided inconsistent information about background policies, and that white prospective tenants were much more likely to be quoted more lenient policies.  Further, policies that were either discretionary—that evaluated prospective tenants on a “case by case” basis—or ambiguous favored white prospective tenants over African Americans 55% of the time.

Discrimination against African American testers took many forms:

• Unequal application of discretionary policies

• Preferential treatment and exceptions to standing policies for white tenants

• Waiving criminal background check fees for white tenants

• Waiving the criminal background check altogether for white tenants

“While overwhelmingly high incarceration rates in the New Orleans area create tremendous difficulties for families seeking stable housing, our study finds that criminal background screening policies are also applied unequally to keep people of color out,” noted Cashauna Hill, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Action Center.

For media inquiries, please contact Monika Gerhart-Hambrick atmgerhart@gnofairhousing.org or (504) 273-6769. READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.

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