When you think of the word "home," what comes to mind? A place to take shelter, to make memories with your family and friends, a safe space to relax? Sometimes we may not realize how important our home and a sense of community is and how access to a safe place to live is not always fairly accessible.
Access to safe housing is one way privilege can manifest in our lives. Many factors contribute to an approval on a mortgage or lease; applicants must demonstrate a steady income, a clean criminal or eviction record, strong credit scores, have a great realtor and the flexibility to take time off work. This laundry list of systemic checks can be problematic for minorities who may face additional barriers due to their skin color, sexual orientation, criminal record, marital status or accent, to name a few.
The Hurdles of Inequitable Housing
Imagine this. You are moving to a new city for a new job. You know a few people in the area and ask for suggestions on places to live. As you narrow down your search, you find two options with all the features you want. You call the leasing office and a woman named Leslie answers. She seems friendly and knowledgeable about the area. She confirms the floor plan you want is available for move-in.
The next day you’re out running errands and decide to drive over to the complex to apply in person. As you enter the building, a woman walks up to you and says, “You can pick up the mail in the post office box around the corner.” You notice her name tag says “Leslie” and you clarify that you talked to her yesterday about one of the apartments which is available. Leslie says, “Oh” and gives you a wrinkled application to complete. She says they don’t have any model apartments to show today. You ask her to call you once something becomes available for you to view.
You never hear back. A few days later, your application is denied without reason. You are confused because you have good credit and meet the qualifications and the leasing agents have not called your references. You ask your friend Avery to call and ask about the same apartment, and she is told it is still available.
You start venting to your friends in your group chat about what happened to you. Your friends are all minorities of different races, ethnicities, generations and backgrounds. Some of them say they’ve had similar experiences when they bought their homes. One couple said they noticed their first realtor wouldn’t even show them homes in certain neighborhoods. Lawful segregation has ended in most parts of the world, but many of the systems in place today continue to uphold this inequitable status quo. Despite your stable finances and excellent credit score, you feel anxious and stressed about finding a place to live in a biased community.