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What Is Housing Discrimination?

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in SafetyOctober 13, 2023

Shelter is a human right, and laws even prevent discrimination in housing. Yet many groups, till now, have trouble accessing shelter because of illegal, discriminatory practices. It ranges from being bullied into moving from a specific neighborhood to being told to get rid of an animal for no reason.

Learning about housing discrimination is key to homeownership, being a landlord, and renting a space. Understanding housing discrimination helps promote equal access to housing for all individuals.

In addition, it can empower affected communities to protect their rights, find remedies, and work towards fair housing practices.

The information below delves into housing discrimination, outlining practical examples and how to prevent the illegal practices. But first, the housing discrimination definition.

What is Housing Discrimination?

As the name suggests, housing discrimination is the illegal practice of treating or behaving differently toward potential buyers or renters of a home because of their color, race, gender, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or family status.

According to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, such discrimination is illegal, which helped address the country's segregation challenges. The act has specific guidelines that should give everyone fair and equal treatment when buying or renting properties or dwellings.

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Examples Of Housing Discrimination

Traditional Examples of Housing Discrimination

Housing discrimination is not a modern practice. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 proves that there are deep roots in the United States, with traditional discriminatory practices that overtly perpetuated racial segregation and inequality.

These practices traditionally discriminated against minority populations, particularly African Americans. Even today, the same discriminatory practices continue to impact housing differences in many American cities. Traditional housing discrimination examples include:


Redlining involved denying loans or insurance to people based on the racial composition of neighborhoods or race. It affected African-American communities most as they were given the lowest rating.

Government maps outlined areas where black residents lived (marking them red) and deemed them risky investments. Therefore, members of the community have difficulty securing mortgages and investing in their homes. While it was prevalent in the 1930s, it is still a problem in the 21st century, known as racial discrimination.


Blockbusting saw real estate agents encouraging white owners to list their homes at a low price by falsely claiming that people of color were moving into the neighborhood. The agents would then sell these homes to people of color at inflated prices, perpetuating segregation.

This problem occurred as early as the 1900s. Real estate agents would persuade white homeowners by using aggressive practices such as panic peddling to get the sale. Some agents went as far as hiring African Americans to walk or drive through the 'white neighborhoods' as 'potential buyers.' 

Modern Examples of Housing Discrimination

While society has made significant progress in combating overt housing discrimination, modern examples persist, often taking more subtle forms.

Online Discrimination

Technology has its perks and its negative impacts. Among the negativities is housing discrimination. Landlords or sellers can use discriminatory language or selectively exclude certain groups from renting or buying homes in certain neighborhoods through online listings.

Similarly, members of the neighborhood could use online platforms to bully or threaten certain groups into vacating the area anonymously.


Various factors drive gentrification, but it often leads to the displacement of low-income communities, who are often minorities. It occurs when wealthier residents move into a neighborhood, driving up costs. It is a form of housing discrimination if it leads to the exclusion of existing residents, as it often reproduces racial inequality.

Gender Identity Discrimination

Those with non-traditional gender identities may face discrimination when searching for housing. Landlords may refuse to rent to those who identify as non-binary or transgender, thus creating barriers to safe and affordable housing. Similarly, real estate agents may refuse to sell to such persons or offer steeper prices. 

Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination can manifest as landlords refusing to make reasonable accommodations to inaccessible housing for people with disabilities. People who face this form of discrimination may also have to deal with harassment from landlords, real estate agents or neighbors, discriminatory statements from either party and physical barriers that block or hinder access to homes.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

There have been significant strides in advancing LGBTQ+ rights, but housing discrimination based on sexual orientation is a significant concern. They range from landlords and real estate agents refusing to rent or sell to LGBTQ+ tenants and buyers to harassment and bias during the process in the form of higher prices or signing unnecessary agreements.

Cases of Emotional Harm

Cases of housing discrimination have gone to court, outlining the emotional harm victims of discrimination face. There are various aspects of emotional harm in housing discrimination cases. They include:

  • Denied Housing Based on Race. People of minority race groups denied housing in a neighborhood where the majority members belong to a major racial group can experience emotional distress, feelings of humiliation, and unworthiness.
  • LGBTQ+ Discrimination. Couples or individuals with non-traditional sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions may feel devalued and emotionally distressed after being rejected or denied housing by landlords or real estate agents.
  • Hostile Housing Environment.Tenants or homeowners subjected to derogatory comments or harassment from neighbors due to nationality, sexual identity, and other factors suffer anxiety and fear for their safety.
  • Disability Discrimination. Tenants or homeowners who face discrimination from landlords may develop feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-worth from the experience.
  • Sexual Harassment. A tenant who faces sexual harassment from a landlord in exchange for lower rent develops fear, emotional trauma, and humiliation.

How To Prevent Being A Victim

Preventing housing discrimination and protecting rights as a tenant or homebuyer involves being informed, proactive, and aware of the fair housing laws in place. Here are some steps to help avoid being a victim of housing discrimination:

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The first step anyone can take in preventing emotional harm from housing discrimination is researching landlords, property management companies and housing providers. Check reviews to see if there are any previous tenants with discriminatory experiences. Avoid any red flags for a smoother experience.

In addition, tenants and buyers can use address lookup tools to learn more about the property value and details, thus preventing cases of overcharging. Furthermore, individuals may also use a professional license lookup tool to ensure they work with certified professionals, as they are more likely to offer better outcomes.

Know Your Rights

Tenants should familiarize themselves with state, local, and federal fair housing laws. Getting to state, city, and county specifics ensures protection for distinct groups.

Ask for Reasonable Accommodations

People with disabilities have the right to request reasonable modifications or accommodations to make housing more accessible if necessary. Housing providers should make these accommodations per the Fair Housing Act.

Document Everything

Buyers and tenants should keep detailed records of interactions with landlords, property managers, and other housing providers. This includes texts, emails, and even phone calls as proof of discriminatory remarks.

Join or Support Advocacy Groups

Engaging with organizations and advocacy groups that combat housing discrimination can give tenants and buyers access to resources, support, and information on addressing and preventing discrimination.

Report Discrimination

Anyone who experiences prejudice should file a housing discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD.

Regulatory Changes In Recent Years

Over the years, the protection extended to other groups, such as veterans, gender identity and gender expression. On top of this, many counties, states, and cities have fair housing laws to protect any other groups that are not part of the Fair Housing Act.

The most recent change was in 2021 when President Biden issued an executive order authorizing that prohibitions based on 'sex' should also include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.

Keep Yourself Informed to Protect Your Rights

Understanding the meaning of housing discrimination and recognizing its various examples is essential for both tenants and housing providers. If you want to learn more about housing discrimination, its impact, and how to protect your housing rights, explore our related articles.

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