Report: White homebuyers in Fairfax County treated more favorably than minority homebuyers

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

A fair housing test conducted by The Fairfax County Office of Human Rights, in partnership with The Equal Rights Center, showed “discernable differences” between housing providers’ treatment of white and minority testers.

The results also showed that “certain housing providers lack the training to provide the same level of treatment to Deaf individuals as they do to hearing individuals.”

From June 2019 to March 2021, the Equal Rights Center conducted and analyzed 122 tests based on race, doability and national origin. Each test was analyzed for discriminatory policies and differences in treatment by the agent between testers.

“In general, the rental tests showed housing providers were more likely to give White testers more detailed information, respond more frequently to their messages, and offer more favorable terms than to their matched pair counterparts,” the report states.

The findings prompted Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn to call for the Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs to review its fair housing enforcement program and provide the board with a plan to enhance its education and training activities.

“That includes an ongoing review of the effectiveness of these activities,” Alcorn said at a board meeting. The board ultimately approved Alcorn’s proposal.

Alcorn said the tests showed more work is still needed to ensure everyone in the county has access to fair housing.

“It’s not a test that’s designed to provide, you know, statistically valid documentation of those issues. But it’s clear: We still have some issues in some parts of our housing industry,” he said.

Chairman Jeffrey McKay said the Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs “does fantastic work,” but the purpose of the review would be to figure out what else could be done.

Supervisor Rodney Lusk, the first African American male elected to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, denounced the findings.

“This should not be happening,” Lusk said. “This is horrible. I mean, to me, it’s making my stomach turn to even talk about it. So we have a duty to intervene.”

Lusk supported the motion and said the board could better determine how to intervene following a review.

“I think this request to the staff to come back with some plan and options is going to be critical and helpful,” he said.

Supervisor Penelope Gross was reminded of her move to the area after graduating college. She said a leasing agent in Alexandria admitted he only wanted to meet her roommate to ensure she wasn’t black.

“I didn’t know what to do, and that’s why I bring this up, because I think for a lot of people who are perhaps being discriminated against, they don’t know what to do,” she said.

Gross said it’s essential to extend the education beyond rental agents and bank managers so that community members know how to handle housing discrimination.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

 

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