Sunday, August 17, 2003

Landlords' choice

Housing: Discrimination

There is no place in a civil society for discrimination on the basis of race, creed or color. Yet that seems to be precisely the case when it comes to access to housing for Hispanics in Greater Cincinnati.

Anyone who is practicing housing discrimination solely on the basis of racial preference should end it now, or risk facing economic and legal consequences later.

A report released by the Cincinnati-based home advocacy group Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) was disturbing. It showed that Hispanic people seeking to rent apartments in and around Cincinnati were more likely than whites to be ignored, deterred or charged more for apartments. This is unacceptable. It was unacceptable in the past, when such discrimination was aimed largely toward African-Americans, and it is unacceptable now toward America's fastest-growing minority. Hispanics account for 1 percent of Greater Cincinnati's population.

For more than 25 years, Karla Irvine, executive director of HOME, has been a fair housing advocate in the Cincinnati area. During that time there has been real improvement, particularly because of the work of the Apartment Association of Greater Cincinnati, she said. But as the most recent report shows, there are still many obstacles to overcome. She said she believes once good landlords discover discrimination, they will be willing to rectify the problem. We hope so.

It's certainly in the best interest of Cincinnati to make sure all citizens are treated with dignity, particularly when it comes to something as basic as housing. We need to become known for embracing ethnic diversity, not for the xenophobic behavior outlined in the report.

HOME sent white and Hispanic testers with similar financial and social profiles to 43 apartment complexes in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties during an 18-month period that ended in May. Other testers placed telephone calls to more than 90 apartment complexes to ask to see properties.

Hispanic testers were treated differently than whites on 51 percent of their visits, and less than half of Hispanic testers who called for an appointment to view an apartment were granted a showing.

HOME expects to do another audit soon - we hope with better results.

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