Study finds high incidence of housing discrimination in Vermont in test cases


A recent study reports that housing discrimination remains high in Vermont, though the numbers are consistent with the national average. A study released by Housing Discrimination Law Project found discrimination in 44 percent of the 260 test cases conducted in 2012 and 2013.

The study found discrimination of 46 percent on national origin; 36 percent on race/color; 45 percent on minor children; and 22 percent based on disability.

The findings reflect results consistent with the numbers found in a similar Housing Discrimination Law Project study in 2012 and in national figures on discrimination, according to Rachel Batterson, the director of the project. A 2003 study found substantially lower rates of discrimination in the state.

Over nearly two years, the Housing Discrimination Law Project performed test cases: They conducted linguistic tests over the phone and made site visits with a test and a control.

The study was conducted largely in Chittenden County. The Housing Discrimination Law Project is a project of Vermont Legal Aid, an organization that gives Vermont tenants free legal representation.

Last year, Vermont Legal Aid received about 100 complaints of discrimination. The majority of those cases, Batterson said, come from families with children or people with disabilities.

For Angela Zaikowski, director of the Apartment Owners Association, the data is not as straightforward as it may appear.

"Discrimination is one of the most nuanced laws that landlords might encounter," she said. "Most of the testers didn't have any idea that they were being discriminated against at all. It was only with the behind-the-scenes people that were able to find those results. Clearly there were instances in which discrimination had occurred but you also have a huge chunk that they're calling it inconclusive."


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