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Boston's Deeply Discriminatory Rental Market Ignores Black Renters

A new study documents staggering racial bais in the Boston rental market and compares the racial disparities among prospective tenants seeking housing in 2018 and 2019.
July 7, 2020, 6am PDT | Lee Flannery
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Elvert Barnes

A study by researchers at Suffolk University Law School examines racial bias among real estate professionals working in the Boston rental market and examines the differential treatment experienced by qualified renters on the basis of race. "In subtle and overt ways, Black renters experienced discrimination by real estate brokers and landlords in 71 percent of the cases tested in the study," writes Meghan E. Irons. The study also found that people seeking housing with Section 8 housing vouchers experienced even greater rates of discrimination in that "regardless of race, they were routinely blocked, ignored, or turned away by an agent," Irons reports. 

Researchers conducted 700 undercover tests in which 200 Black and white participants with similar income levels and credits scores posed as prospective tenants and documented their experiences in writing after interacting with real estate brokers. Irons points out that over 180 of the 200 participants had exclusive contact with a real estate or management company professional. According to the researchers, these professionals are in part responsible for the discriminatory practices unveiled by the study and should work to correct the racist bias.

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