A survey of 549 community-based organizations suggests that housing discrimination is on the rise, particularly targeting disabled individuals, immigrants, minorities and families with children, according to the nonprofit Consumer Action.

Locally, Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. has said it found similar problems. The organizations, which has sent “testers” out in the region to inquire about available housing, filed suit last year and in 2010 over alleged discrimination.

In its recently released survey, Consumer Action called housing discrimination a “widespread problem in the United States.”

“Housing discrimination is all too alive and well in the United States today,” Ken McEldowney, executive director, Consumer Action, said in a statement. “The ever-shifting focus of housing discrimination makes it doubly hard to root out.”

Community-based organizations must regularly educate themselves on unique challenges associated with different segments of the population, McEldowney said. The dilemma is most challenging when it comes to immigrants, who speak little or no English, he said.

The two top forms of housing discrimination were refusals to allow individuals to rent or buy a home and different terms for the sale or rental of a property.

Forty-eight percent of surveyed organizations called housing discrimination very serious. Forty percent said housing discrimination has gone up in the last two years; 11 percent said discrimination has gone down.

The survey found the top problems reported involve immigration-related issues: 59 percent report cultural issues, such as a fear of authorities; 54 percent said language barriers were a problem; and 56 percent cited problems stemming from a person’s legal status in the United States.

Consumer Action also reported that 65 percent of community groups said awareness of housing rights among those they serve was somewhat low or very low.

Consumer Action offers these examples of discriminatory practices to watch out for:

  • Advertising in a way designed to limit potential tenants, such as specifying “No kids” or “Looking for white tenants”
  • Lying to minority applications about the availability of a unit
  • Setting higher or lower rent, fees or credit requirements based on the tenants
  • Discouraging certain home buyers by misleading them on sales terms or pricing them out of the market

Check out this link and this one to learn more about housing discrimination.

ywenger@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/yvonnewenger