Nearly one in four Portland housing leasing agents discriminate against minorities according to a recently released audit on Indicators of Disparate Treatment in Portland Rental Housing by the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) in partnership with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. 

Despite the Fair Housing Act being passed 50 years ago, the audit found of 45 tests conducted, nine (20%) showed adverse differential treatment toward a protected class tester. Of these nine, one showed differential treatment based on race and/or color, while eight showed adverse differential treatment based on national origin.

“Despite this landmark legislation that institutionalized civil rights protections in housing,” states the report, “many members of our communities recognize that discrimination and differential treatment in the housing market continue today. However, that discrimination and differential treatment might look very different than it did at the time the Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago. Today, discrimination and differential treatment are less overt, often occurring without the awareness of those to whom it is impacting directly.” 

The report concludes the most typical action of rental agents is making statements that could either discourage protected class testers from renting, applying or encouraging other testers to rent or apply.  Rental agents are providing differing rental terms and conditions, unit availability, and availability dates to people based on their protected class with the highest rate of adverse differential treatment being due to national origin. Housing providers must address any differential information and treatment provided with special attention on Hispanic/Latino and South Asian community members.

The PHB has announced it is providing $200,000 in grants to community-based organizations to provide a range of renter services for historically underserved communities living in Multnomah County, with an emphasis on direct legal services to enforce Fair Housing and landlord tenant law.

Three of the top recommendations in the report include:

  1. Enhance education and outreach:Additional investment in education and outreach is critical to informing all stakeholders of their rights as well as responsibilities. Housing providers need to train employees to learn about the issue of housing discrimination and update them about innovations in the law.
  2. Strengthen enforcement: Testing is an essential component to deterring housing discrimination and furthering an understanding of the circumstances under which discrimination is most likely to occur. Such testing will bring problematic practices in the housing market to the surface.
  3. Screen for criteria impacting communities of color: Expand testing to include the use of criminal history and credit scores in the rental screening process, which may show a disparate impact on people of color.

You can find the report at