Within New Orleans housing for rent has taken on somewhat of a sinister twist. The criminal background check process is being used indiscriminately towards black renters by landlords and housing providers. A recent report by The Fair Housing Action Center in New Orleans saw disparity between it’s black and white potential renters all with identical histories (career paths, income levels, families and backgrounds). As a result of the “mystery shopping” the New Orleans housing for rent market engaged whites with preferential treatment by granting them a waiver over normal background check policy and fees while one agent advised an Afro American renter that they were unsure of policy and that the potential renter would lose his criminal background check fee. The same agent advised the potential white tenant that the background check would probably not highlight a misdemeanor and that “she” would do her level best to encourage the application.

Over a two month period during the Summer fifty people (posing as renters) within Jefferson and Orleans parishes inquired about available housing and agents and landlords criminal background check policies. In half of the inquiries black renters were met with discrimination. The New Orleans housing for rent mystery shop essentially was to determine whether, based on ethnicity, potential renters (with criminal backgrounds/records) would be treated equally and fairly.

The report around the New Orleans housing for rent disparity recommends officials to numerous reforms within Jefferson Parish and New Orleans. These include but are not restricted to ensuring the criminal background check process is fair, accurate and applied equally. Housing providers and landlords to provide written confirmation and reasons as to why an application is declined. The housing providers to also supply applicants their background check policy and the report used in conjunction with their decision and denial.

Property costs in New Orleans have steadily climbed to 50% from just prior to Hurricane Katrina. The real estate fraternity forecast prices to continue rising in the midst of dwindling housing stock. A previous investigation in to New Orleans housing for rent over a 4 month period by The Fair Housing Action Center last year also uncovered racial discrimination in some of New Orleans more affluent neighborhoods including East Carrollton and Lakeview.

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