Fighting Discrimination with Fair Housing Tests

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Fighting Discrimination with Fair Housing Tests

What is a Fair Housing Test?

A Fair Housing Test is one tool fair housing organizations use to identify illegal housing discrimination.  

Fair housing testing refers to the use of individuals who, without a bona fide intent to rent or purchase a home, apartment, or patronize a place of public accommodation, pose as prospective renters, purchasers, or patrons for the purpose of gathering information which may indicate whether a housing provider is complying with fair housing laws. 

Fight discrimination – Support fair housing testing programs. Source: National Fair Housing Alliance, YouTube.

One type of test uses a pair of testers posing as prospective renters with similar rental profiles in every area except for a protected class characteristic, such as race, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.

The short video above depicts a test based on the protected class of race and shows how this type of test can be effective in identifying housing discrimination. 

Testing can be done via phone, email, or in person. 

Once the test is completed, an analysis is conducted on any differences in the way the two testers were treated by the leasing agents, and the information they both receive about vacancies, rental rates, terms, etc. 

History of Fair Housing Testing 

The concept of fair housing testing goes as far back as the 1960s, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading marches in support of the Open Housing Movement and the Chicago Freedom Movement. The leaders of the Chicago Freedom Movement created the concept of fair housing testing while demonstrating against race-based discrimination.

You can read more about the history of the Open Housing Movement and the Chicago Freedom Movement in our recent blog post.

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division brings suits on behalf of the United States to enforce the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

In 1991, the Civil Rights Division established the Fair Housing Testing Program within the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section and began testing in 1992. 

Become a Fair Housing Tester 

Want to join the fight to end housing discrimination? FHCO is always in search of Fair Housing testers! Members of protected classes, especially members of protected classes disproportionately impacted by discrimination, such as race and national origin, are needed to fight discrimination.

Testers must pass a background check, after which testers will complete free training conducted by FHCO. No experience is necessary but there are important skills for testers to exhibit, such as punctuality, reliability, and attention to detail. 

Check out the Testing webpage on our website to learn more about how you can help end housing discrimination as a tester in FHCO’s Testing program. 

If you are interested in becoming a Fair Housing Tester for FHCO, fill out this simple form to apply to become a volunteer tester.

Our next virtual tester training is on Feb. 23, 1 pm  4 pm.

Report Housing Discrimination





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