Report alleges bias in housing
Nonprofit group claims that Latinos experience discrimination when trying to rent apartments in Frederick County
A national nonprofit civil rights group released a report June 2 alleging that four out of five Latinos were discriminated against when trying to rent an apartment in Frederick County.
The Equal Rights Center in Washington, D.C., released a 12-page report, "Fair Housing for All: The Disparate Response to Latino Housing in Frederick County, Md.," alleging that Latinos who applied for rental housing felt a because of their race.
"Nationally, there seems to be anger directed toward the Latino community as a whole, and I think people in the county see this spillover of anger," said Don Kahl, the center's executive director. "We have received more and more complaints of discrimination [in Frederick County], and we did the testing to determine if there was discrimination, and sadly it appears to be true."
The Equal Rights Center is a nonprofit organization that investigates discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. The civil rights group is an advocate for immigrants that looks to uncover any mistreatment and discrimination based on their national origin.
Kahl said the Frederick County Sheriff's Office's participation in the federal 287g program, which allows deputies to check the immigration status of the people they arrest and detain for deportation proceedings, is partly to blame for the anti-Latino bias.
"Whether it is intended or not, it breeds mistrust," Kahl said. "That's disturbing and it's unfortunate."
The center conducted its investigation between March and November 2009, and sent 31 "matched pairs" half Latino and half white to 22 privately owned apartment rental properties in the county, the report states.
Latinos and whites applied for rental housing using the same financial and personal profiles. They contacted the rental property asking for the availability and the rental costs of a one-bedroom apartment.
Sixteen companies manage the properties, but the report does not name the properties nor the management companies. Each property had a minimum of 25 rental apartments.
The report states that Latinos found they were offered fewer available apartments than their white counterparts; they were quoted higher rental rates and higher security deposits; and they were not told of rental incentives or special deals, as white customers were.
None were denied housing. Instead, burdensome rental requirements were imposed, making it more difficult to qualify, the report stated. Kahl said these actions violate the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate against any person based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and physical or mental disability.
But the center has no plans to report the discrimination to federal officials. Instead, it plans to hold classes with real estate companies in the county to help them to understand their responsibilities, said Ashley N. White, the center's communication's manager.
Emery Csulak, vice president of the Landlord and Property Owners Association of Greater Frederick, did not know of the report and denied its claims. "We haven't discussed the report, but we haven't found any issues of discrimination," he said.
Csulak said the association which advocates for the rights of property owners, works with government officials to resolve rental property issues and promotes responsible property ownership provides classes for property owners and landlords on the meaning of the Fair Housing Act.
But immigration supporters who have read the report agree with its allegations. "It's always disheartening to hear about discrimination," said Lydia Espinosa Crafton of New Market and a member of Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) Hispanic Affairs Commission. "It's not surprising. I'm very glad to see the Equal Rights Center document the truth. ... I feel very badly for the people looking for housing. I understand landlords want to keep their property safe, but you can't cut it off at the gate."
Guy Djoken, president of the Frederick County chapter of the NAACP, said the report is "shocking."
"I knew there were problems because people have been calling me complaining, but it still blew my mind when I saw the results," he said.