Housing Discrimination Study

Linda and Adam

Despite having never met, Linda P. Olsen and Adam Ashland have a great deal in common.


They are both non-smokers who own no pets. Each is a polite and effective communicator with a yahoo email address. Both Adam and Linda were apartment hunting for the past two months and they each have the exact same needs: a one or two bedroom apartment in Fargo, North Dakota.


Here’s where the similarities become uncanny. Adam and Linda have both sent email queries regarding exactly 48 different apartment listings – the very same 48 listings, with exactly 12 emails sent on each of 4 different days. What’s more, they have emailed these same listings within an hour of each other. Sometimes, Linda manages to contact the apartment broker first but exactly half the time, Adam beats her to it. They each receive similarly enthusiastic email responses urging them to schedule an apartment viewing. Neither of them ever do so.


This is where there is dissimilarity between Linda and Adam, at last. Linda has received responses to 37 of her emails; Adam, only 33. There is nothing to note of interest in this nearly 10 percent difference, until the reveal of the last two things that Linda P. Olsen and Adam Ashland have in common. They are both fictitious people and they each have a partner who is male.


Linda is hunting for an apartment with her husband, while Adam is looking with his boyfriend, Steven.


In June of this year, Mayor Dennis Walaker indicated that he doesn’t see housing discrimination as a major issue in Fargo. “I just don’t think that’s an issue. I really don’t,” Walaker is quoted [CLA1] to have said in response to discussions of creating an ordinance outlawing employment and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity within city limits.


In a recent government study, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (http://www.huduser.org/portal/publications/fairhsg/discrim_samesex.html) found heterosexual couples were favored over gay male couples in 15.9 percent of tests for housing discrimination, and over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent. Inspired by this study and reading of Walaker’s opinion that housing discrimination doesn’t happen here, it seemed like a theory in need of testing. Using the HUD study formula, emails went out and responses were tallied. An unequal number of responses. Linda’s request garnered a 77% response rate, while Adam heard from 68% of the apartment managers he contacted.


This informal study involved 48 apartment listings selected non-randomly over a recent two-month period.  While this investigation does not rise to the HUD level of rigor, the two test-cases represented by Linda and Adam showed a difference which we can be about 82% confident we would not have expected to see if discrimination had not been a factor.  Certainly, lesbian and gay couples can provide abundant anecdotal evidence of employment and housing discrimination in our community.


Despite what many of us wishes were true and regardless of what the mayor believes, housing discrimination absolutely exists here. Now, what are we going to do about it?

[CLA1] https://secure.forumcomm.com/?publisher_ID=1&article_id=402824&CFID=616202358&CFTOKEN=89116090


Contributed by Mara Morken


– See more at: http://pridecenter.areavoices.com/2013/09/30/housing-discrimination-study/#sthash.rwJYJluh.dpuf