The Shape of Housing Discrimination Against Same-Sex Elders

lgbt-senior-livingJust when some people suggest that discrimination against lesbian and gay people is a thing of the past, along comes a report that proves otherwise.

“Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same Sex Couples,” (available at http://www.equalrightscenter.org/site/DocServer/Senior_Housing_Report.pdf?docID=2361) is a 2014 report by The Equal Rights Center.  They conducted 200 tests across 10 states in order to see if same-sex couples seeking housing in independent living facilities (as well as some continuing care and assisted living facilities that include independent living units) were treated the same as opposite-sex couples seeking housing.

They found that in 60% of the calls they made between April and November 2013, the “family member” seeking housing for an older relative and their same-sex spouse received adverse, disparate treatment from the “family member” seeking housing for an older relative and their opposite-sex spouse.  Many times, it was the exact same rental agent giving the two callers different information.

How did the discrimination play out?

10% of the time, same-sex couples were told about fewer available units than opposite-sex couples.  This included telling same-sex couples there were no units available while opposite-sex couples were offered units, and offering only 2-bedroom units to same-sex couples requesting 1-bedroom units.

10% the rent quotes to the same-sex couple were at least $100 more than that quoted to the opposite-sex couple.  In six of those cases, the “heterosexual” prospective renter was offered a rental option that was $200 to $500 less.

21% of the time same-sex couples were asked for higher fees or deposits.

4.5% of the time the same-sex tester received significantly less information regarding available amenities than did the opposite-sex tester that spoke to that same agent.

5.5% of the time, the heterosexual tester was offered a special incentive to rent at the facility that was not offered the same-sex tester.

11% of the time, same-sex couples were told of additional application requirements — background checks, credit checks, proof of income, or a wait list — that were not discussed with heterosexual applicants.

It’s important to note, as the study report makes clear, “Housing discrimination does not just harm the targeted individual or couple, but hurts all of society.  Residents of senior housing facilities are denied the opportunity to live and learn in a diverse community; relatives and loved ones are more limited in the options available when assisted care is needed for their aging relatives; and non-seniors observe the stigma that may confront them in their retirement planning, dimming their prospects for a healthy, productive, optimistic retirement.”

Although the report makes various recommendations, it is interesting to note that whether or not the state explicitly outlawed housing discrimination against same-sex couples appeared to have little effect on how much disparate treatment couples in that state encountered:

State State prohibits LGB housing   discrimination % same-sex older couples treated less well % same-sex older couples treated less well in two or more ways
Arizona

No

80%

15%

Colorado

Yes

50%

10%

Florida

No

45%

10%

Georgia

No

70%

40%

Michigan

No

35%

5%

Missouri

No

45%

10%

New Jersey

Yes

40%

15%

Ohio

No

45%

5%

Pennsylvania

No

40%

10%

Washington

Yes

30%

5%

Overall

48%

12.5%

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