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HUD: Yes, Latinos Still Experience Housing Discrimination

You’ve heard us say it before: Not all Latinos are immigrants and not all immigrants are Latinos. The two are both distinct and diverse—generalizations that conflate or oversimplify are bound to be inaccurate.

But unfortunately, erroneous perceptions of immigrants and Latinos often limit their housing choices. In fact, a  recently released study from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gives credence to the general sense of discrimination felt by those communities with hard numbers. HUD research shows that Latino renters are informed of 12.5 percent fewer units and shown 7.5 percent fewer units than White home seekers. 

For me, the HUD findings underscored a central reality: While the terms ‘Latino’ and ‘immigrant’ may not be synonymous, both groups experience housing discrimination in startlingly similar ways. Both Latinos and immigrants grapple with a fear of retaliation for filing complaints, challenges related to language differences, and a cultural unfamiliarity that may include a fear of institutions and distrust of government. Exacerbating these basic fears is a general lack of access to information about and knowledge of fair housing rights and responsibilities.

There is good news: Overt forms of housing discrimination—such as a housing provider’s refusal to meet with a home seeker or offer information about available units because of the home seeker’s race or ethnicity—have waned since the 1970s, mitigated by the passage of  the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Other less obvious forms of discrimination continue, whether it’s by providing information about fewer housing units or restricting housing options for people of color. The Latino Policy Form hears heartbreaking stories from community members about discrimination based on perceived immigration status, family size, and even speaking with an accent.  

Limited housing choices mean limited opportunities for Latinos, people of color, and immigrants alike. Options for schools, employment, transportation and public amenities—like libraries, parks, and hospitals— influence a person’s quality of life—and the quality of those options are closely tied to where one lives. As more than four decades have passed since 1968’s milestone federal Fair Housing Act, it is critical that fair housing strategies adapt to address today’s patterns of discrimination and inequity. In Illinois, where Latinos and immigrants are among the state’s fastest-growing communities, the struggle to stamp out housing discrimination is all the more urgent.

Until our laws catch up with our realities, the Latino Policy Forum is doing its part to inform the public here in Illinois on fair housing rights and responsibilities through informational sessions, trainings, and technical assistance to home seekers, community-based organizations, and anyone interested in learning about fair housing. Through collaboration with various fair housing agencies, the Forum brings much-needed information on fair housing laws, including the complaint process.  Learn more about our work here.


Thanks to Illinois Municipal Human Relations Association and the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the two organizations that inspired this blog with their conference on how housing discrimination manifests itself locally.


(PHOTO: Victor1558/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Posted In: Housing, Affordable Housing, Housing Education