A recent report shows an increase in housing discrimination complaints in 2012, in addition to a “marked spike” in harassment complaints. In light of these findings, the National Fair Housing Alliance is calling upon the federal government to amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination against individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, marital status and source of income.
“It’s unbelievable how many states you can be discriminated against in housing for being gay, transgender, or because of your marital status or lawful source of income,” says Jorge Soto, policy associate at NFHA, a Washington-based group working to end housing discrimination.
That means if an individual or family qualifies for and can pay for an apartment, landlords can still deny their applications based on discriminatory practices.
Today, it is legal to discriminate based on source of income in 37 states, because of sexual orientation in 38 states, and because of gender identity in 44 states. The report also showed an increase in harassment complaints by 35 percent, and almost 30,000 housing discrimination complaints nationwide in 2012.
The NFHA states that the number of complaints represents a tiny percentage of the actual number of acts of housing discrimination each year – up to four million, according to the report.
There is also an overall increase in housing discrimination compared to last year. Soto says that this increase is mostly represented in an increase in complaints investigated by private fair housing organizations, though there was a decrease in complaints investigated by state and local fair housing organizations.
“We also saw an increase of 38 percent in complaints based on source of income, 43 percent increase in sexual orientation complaints, and an increase of 63 percent for complaints based on marital status,” Soto says.
It remains important for those who experience discrimination to report it to authorities and explore their options of recourse.
“If you feel like you have been discriminated against, you can call [Department of Housing and Urban Development] and/or the National Fair Housing Alliance,” Soto recommends.