I'm positive that most people are not familiar with the terms of the Fair Housing Act, which also goes by the identification of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It is supposed to be enforced by HUD...but that requirement did not foresee the Trump Administration.
When the Fair Housing Act was first enacted, it prohibited discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin. Sex was added as a protected characteristic in 1974. In 1988, disability and familial status (the presence or anticipated presence of children under 18 in a household) were added (further codified in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990). In certain circumstances, the law allows limited exceptions for discrimination based on sex, religion, or familial status.
Researchers from Suffolk University Law School have published a study on discrimination in rental housing: Transcending Prejudice: Gender Identity and Expression-Based Discrimination in the Metro Boston Rental Housing Market.
Transgender people frequently encounter disparate treatment while apartment hunting in Greater Boston — even though Massachusetts law prohibits such discrimination, according to the study from Suffolk University Law School that outside analysts said is among the largest projects documenting such bias.
The Suffolk team found evidence of discrimination in more than 60 percent of the apartment shopping encounters studied.
Researchers found an insidious pattern: what they describe as discrimination with a smile. Applicants who made clear they were transgender generally received pleasant treatment, not realizing they were not offered the same discounts, amenities, and customer service typically given to applicants who are not transgender.
This kind of discrimination is devastating, and it’s happening.
It affects every single aspect of your life...to be turned away from a place to live just because of who you are.
--William Berman, Suffolk University law professor
Transgender renters and those who are gender nonconforming — whose behavior or appearance does not match their gender of birth — were 21 percent less likely to be offered a financial incentive, compared with those who are not transgender, according to the study.
Similarly, the transgender and gender nonconforming renters were 27 percent less likely to be shown additional areas of an apartment complex, compared with the other study participants. And they were 9 percent more likely to be quoted a higher rental price.
What this made me realize, as a trans individual, is that I may have faced housing discrimination in my life, and not known about it.
--Mason Dunn, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
Massachusetts is one of 19 states that prohibit discrimination because of gender identity, and the Suffolk study is among the largest to document such housing discrimination in a specific state, said Diane Levy, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. But Levy said anecdotal evidence points to widespread problems.