Rental Market Discrimination in the Housing Choice Voucher Program
Moore, Mary Frances Kathleen
MetadataShow full item record
It is generally accepted that households in the Housing Choice Voucher program (HCV) encounter discrimination when searching for private market units. Observational research suggests that households and program administrators perceive discrimination. Research and enforcement audits, typically carried out in a single metro area, suggest that landlords discriminate against HCV households. However, the extent of HCV discrimination is unknown. This study adds to this research by empirically demonstrating discrimination against HCV households in multiple metro areas. Using an email audit design, over 6,000 landlords were contacted by testers over 60 days during summer 2016 in 14 different metro areas selected to vary in vacancy rates and Source of Income (SOI) law coverage. Testers randomly varied in racial affiliation, conveyed through name, and HCV status, conveyed through email text. Landlord response behavior was recorded and classified to measure discrimination. Findings show that after controlling for tester, unit, neighborhood, and SOI law characteristics, 33.6% of HCV households receive any response from landlords, compared to 48.2% of non-HCV households, a difference of 14.6 percentage points. Only 10.3% of HCV households receive a positive response compared to 46.5% of non-HCV households, a difference of fully 36.2 percentage-points. SOI law coverage is not associated with response behavior. HCV status does not have different effects by racial affiliation. Due to the randomization of tester attributes, it is likely that these effects are causal: HCV households experience discrimination when contacting landlords advertising rental units online. Given the severity of this discrimination, HCV program administrators and advocates should focus on rental search assistance for households and reducing the time it takes to complete pre-leasing approvals.
- Public Affairs