NORWALK, Conn. — A $10,000 study of housing discrimination in Norwalk found results that concern Mayor Harry Rilling, who plans further testing.
“We took a proactive approach to make sure that we are on top of this. What we found sends up a red flag that lets us know that we need to do further testing,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in a Thursday morning press conference.
The study was suggested by Norwalk Fair Housing Officer Margaret Suib in 2015, with the $10,000 allocated in the 2016/17 budget. The testing was done early this year, a press release said.
“The study used paired fair housing tests,” the release said. “The housing provider was contacted by two testers, one Black and one White. Each tester presented similar qualifications and requested the same kind of apartment. A test ‘supports allegations’ if the Black tester was treated less favorably than the White tester. A test ‘did not support allegations’ if the testers were treated substantially similarly. A test was ‘inconclusive’ if the Black tester was not treated as favorably at the White tester but the differences require further investigation.”
The Connecticut Fair Housing Center, a private fair housing program, performed 10 rental tests based on race, the study states, indicating that seven of the 10 properties were found to support suspicions of discrimination. One test was inconclusive and three showed no support for the allegations.
The study states:
- “The African-American tester being offered a lower floor unit shortly before the White tester was offered a unit on a higher “more desirable” floor;
- “African-American testers shown one apartment while the White testers were shown as many as four;
- “White testers offered special discounts not offered to African-American testers;
- “White testers offered an easier, more simplified application process than the AfricanAmerican tester;
- “White testers given brochures and business cards that made it easy for the White tester to contact the rental agents While the African-American testers were given no contact information;
- “White testers receiving follow up calls and emails while African-American testers were not contacted after the initial tour;
- “White testers receiving tours of the property including roof-top decks with barbecues and planters for personal gardens that were not shown to African American testers.”
“It’s not just a matter of persons being shown amenities,” Fair Housing Advisory Commission Chairman the Rev. Jeffrey Ingraham said Thursday. “Sometimes it’s the perceived disrespect … Just the perception, an air of almost unwelcomeness.”
Rilling said he’s pledged additional city funding for training sessions property managers and leasing agents of multi-family housing in Norwalk.
“It is incumbent upon us as a community to work together to make sure that we minimize any form of discrimination across the board, in all areas,” Rilling said.
Testing could involve investigations into possible discrimination against people in the Section 8 program, or families, Fair Housing Commissioner Daisy Franklin said.
Each property was visited once and it’s possible that it could have been one employee who was discriminating, Rilling said.
“The properties that we worked with were very cooperative,” Rilling said. “They were surprised and disappointed that we found a problem in their property. Just last night, I guess, an attorney representing four of the properties reached out. They are going to put together a document as to how they are going to work with us, or how they want to help us…. We can’t condemn discrimination strongly enough. We can’t tolerate discrimination in any area of the city.”