Academic journal article Cityscape

Changing Contexts and New Directions for the Use of Testing

Academic journal article Cityscape

Changing Contexts and New Directions for the Use of Testing

Article excerpt


Testing has long been a powertul instrument tor documenting housing discrimination. It is a valuable research method ior understanding housing market practices and the varied experiences oi particular groups oi homeseekers. In the iair housing eniorcement context, testing has proved to be the single most eiiective investigative tool ior collecting evidence oi illegal housing discrimination.

Testing laces limitations in both research and eniorcement. It conversely has the potential to be more widely used in segments oi the housing market where it has not been employed and in ways that are not always considered by researchers and eniorcement practitioners. This article otters some lessons trom previous testing that apply to conventional rental and sales testing and also to the new (rentiers where testing might be applied more widely and ettectively.

In the research context, paired testing has been used extensively to study race and national origin discrimination in the nation's housing markets (Turner et al., 2012). Testing has been used to study other iorms oi housing discrimination; ior example, disability and sexual orientation (Friedman et al., 2013). Paired testing has also been used to identity discriminatory practices in other markets; ior example, mortgage lending, homeowners insurance, employment, restaurants, hotels, and taxicab services (Fix and Struyk, 1992; Pager, 2007; Smith and Cloud, 1997; Turner et al., 2013).

Since the passage oi the iederal Fair Housing Act 47 years ago, paired testing has been used to gather evidence oi illegal housing discrimination. More than lour decades oi legal challenges to discriminatory housing practices based on testing evidence have led to many changes in housing-provider policies and practices. One outcome oi these changes, ior certain, has been greater compliance.

Mounting evidence, however, irom recent testing investigations and lair housing litigation indicates that some housing providers, those intent on violating lair housing laws, have become adept at disguising or altering their practices in a way that ellectively reduces their chances oi being detected by researchers, government eniorcement agencies, and, most importantly, ordinary consumers. New and more subtle iorms oi discrimination have been identified, leading Douglas Massey (2005) to conclude that racial discrimination in housing has become a "moving target."

In view oi these changes, along with changes in the housing market in general and particularly in the way housing and housing-related services are provided, this article explores how testing might be more ellectively used in both research and eniorcement contexts to identity housing discrimination. We oiler some guidance about preliminary steps that might be taken to develop credible testing approaches to investigate or study housing market practices in segments oi the housing market that have received less attention since the passage oi lair housing laws and to more ellectively use testing in rental and sales markets, where this tool has long been employed. Finally, we point to some recommendations ior structural changes and new directions ior both research and eniorcement organizations that suggest how testing might be used to simultaneously advance our knowledge about discriminatory housing practices while seeking to eradicate these practices irom our nation's housing markets. Perhaps the most important lesson is the need to better understand the context in which housing is provided and discrimination occurs when developing testing programs ior either research or eniorcement.1

Contemporary Housing Discrimination: Lessons From New York City

The Fair Flousing Justice Center (FFTJC) is a regional civil rights organization that conducts testing throughout New York City and seven surrounding New York counties. Since 2010, systemic testing investigations conducted by FHJC have resulted in the filing of numerous tair housing lawsuits. …

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