OP-ED: ECONOMY: Does U.S. Housing Market Systemically Discriminate Against Latinas?

Reports have found that lenders are less helpful and quote higher fees for Hispanic applicants than they do for white applicants. Photo (c) New York Times 2016Reports have found that lenders are less helpful and quote higher fees for Hispanic applicants than they do for white applicants. Photo (c) New York Times 2016

Rental companies tend to go one of two ways — they’re made up of great people who are willing to work with you, or they aren’t. The problem is that it’s hard to tell which one the company will be until you’re already renting from them.

Women of color face even more issues. It has been proven that there is systemic discrimination against people of color when renting in the U.S., but it hits especially hard as a woman.

These discrimination factors force women of color to stay in areas that they could afford to move out of, and it keeps single moms from moving to neighborhoods that are closer to work or a better school system. It’s a serious problem.

Income Inequality

Photo (c) Ecuavisa 2014

Meanwhile, Latino men and women both come in last, making only slightly more than half of what a white man makes. Photo (c) Ecuavisa 2014

It’s no secret that women make less money than men. For women of color, it’s even less, and Hispanic women come in the farthest behind. They make on average 58% of what a white man would make.

In fact, the only group that makes more than white men is Asian men. Meanwhile, Latino men and women both come in last, making only slightly more than half of what a white man makes.

That income variation makes a huge difference in what women of color can afford and what the landlords are expecting to see as part of their rental application. As a woman, and especially as a woman of color, it’s possible that your landlord will just automatically assume you don’t have the funds.

Social Pressures

Photo (c) El Universal 2015

Reports have found that lenders are less helpful and quote higher fees for Hispanic applicants than they do for white applicants. Photo (c) El Universal 2015

A large factor preventing women of color from living in any area is just the fact that so many parts of America still see significant racism issues. This was evidenced as recently as 2015, when a landlord was called out for deliberately trying to house white people over people of color.

So why does this happen? Of course, it’s because of racism, but it’s also about the area. For example, a predominantly Latino or Hispanic neighborhood, even a wealthy one, attracts mostly Hispanic people. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, but when racism prevents people of another race (largely whites) from moving there, we begin to see such a large racial gap that furthers social and cultural lines. As a result, we continue to be divided.

This racial gap also contributes to making it hard for people of color, and especially women, to get housing. To avoid this, it’s often smart to choose to rent from credible companies that have management and maintenance plans and come with consulting services. There is usually more accountability and higher standards involved with a rental company than with a single landlord, especially when it comes to following anti-discriminatory practices. You can also consider moving into a housing community, where management has a plethora of homes to fill and standards to maintain for their current renters. Make sure you check into their standard practice for housing applications. Reports have found that lenders are less helpful and quote higher fees for Hispanic applicants than they do for white applicants.

Redlining

Photo (c) American Planning Association Economic Development Division 2009

Homer Hoyt made a list of the most “desirable races and incomes” for neighborhoods. Photo (c) American Planning Association Economic Development Division 2009

This is a method of discrimination that isn’t only illegal, but it’s also outdated and based on times when racism was deemed acceptable by more of the population.

Basically, some old crotchety white guy named Homer Hoyt made a list of the most “desirable races and incomes” for neighborhoods.

White, rich neighborhoods were good, while white, rich-ish but non-Protestant neighborhoods were okay. Working class and poor white neighborhoods were frowned upon, and any predominantly non-white neighborhood was redlined. Redlining meant that banks wouldn’t make loans to the people who lived or wanted to live in those neighborhoods. Black and Hispanic neighborhoods were instantly redlined.

Add Some Sexism

Photo (c) EFE 2016

Sadly, statistics show that if an assault does occur, women of color are less likely to report it. Photo (c) EFE 2016

And just for fun, let’s not forget that any woman renting alone is at risk. Harassment from landlords is common, as are landlords who refuse to fix issues they’re supposed to deal with. A single woman is also more likely to have kids than a single man is, and some landlords will either refuse to rent to someone with kids or charge a higher price because of it.

Landlords are overwhelmingly men. A single woman living alone is more likely to be viewed as “up for grabs” regardless of whether she wants to be or not. Sadly, statistics show that if an assault does occur, women of color are less likely to report it. If they do report it, their harassers are less likely to face adequate jail time — if they face it at all. Now, with the prevailing attitude of deportations and “building the wall” women who face assault may be even less likely to speak out. If a woman is assaulted, especially one who is Hispanic or Latina, she may be afraid of reporting it specifically because of that rhetoric. Although, as is evidenced in Patrica M’s story, making a report can be a saving grace. It won’t stop men from feeling like they can take advantage of you though.

Women of color in the U.S. have had to fight harder and longer than any other group. They also have to work harder and longer to get housing, and then to keep it. If they do keep it, they’re more likely to face harassment and discrimination simply from living there. The housing market is just another means by which discrimination is getting systematically swept under the rug. It’s a serious problem, and the system probably needs an extreme overhaul, as so many of our social and cultural structures currently do.