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Race/Color In Housing

Race and Color In Housing


The Fair Housing Act provides specific protections regardless of race or color.


Race refers to whether a person is White, Black/African American, Asian, American Indian or an Alaska Native, or is a Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or some mixture of two or more of these groups. Under the Fair Housing Act, national origin refers to a person’s birthplace or ancestry, such as someone who is Latino/a or Hispanic or from another country or region of the world. To learn more about national origin housing discrimination, click here.


Color refers to the visible color of a person’s skin; that is, whether a person’s skin is light or dark.



Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers cannot:

  • Use ads that state a preference for (or target) one race over another
  • Deny entry due to race or color
  • Apply different terms or conditions to an individual based on their race or color
  • Steer individuals to certain neighborhoods or areas of a complex
  • Make disparaging comments about the appearance or practice of a racial group


HUD Guidance on Criminal Background Screening:

The criminal justice system has a disproportionately negative impact on Black and Hispanic individuals. As a result, Black and Hispanic individuals are more likely to be negatively impacted by criminal background screenings, and denied, when applying for rental housing.


Screen Policy Outside of Seattle:

  • You can deny for any criminal conviction in either section 8 or non-section 8 housing that is listed on your screening criteria, subject to the disparate impact analysis to determine if you have a “legitimate business reason” for the denial
  • To determine such an interest, a landlord must demonstrate, through reliable evidence, a nexus between the policy or practice and resident safety and/or protecting property, in light of the following factors:

A.  The nature and severity of the conviction;

B.  The number and types of convictions;

C.  The time that has elapsed since the date of conviction;

D.  Age of the individual at the time of conviction;

E.  Evidence of good tenant history before and/or after the conviction occurred; and

F.  Any supplemental information related to the individual's rehabilitation, good conduct, and additional facts or explanations provided by the individual, if the individual chooses to do so. For the purposes of this definition, review of conviction information is limited to those convictions included in registry information.


For information on Seattle’s criminal background policies, click here.


Some potential signs of race or color discrimination could be[1]:

  • Appraising a home lower because of the racial makeup of the neighborhood
  • Setting different rents or fees for tenants based on race
  • Prioritizing repair requests based on a tenant’s color
  • Considering a tenant’s race before pursuing eviction


According to the Department of Justice, most of the mortgage lending cases brought by the Department under the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act have alleged discrimination based on race or color. Some of the Department's cases have also alleged that municipalities and other local government entities violated the Fair Housing Act when they denied permits or zoning changes for housing developments, or relegated them to predominantly minority neighborhoods, because the prospective residents were expected to be predominantly African-Americans.


Housing providers are encouraged to adopt case by case screening criteria for applicants based on criminal history and ensure no policies or practices negatively impact protected classes, even if unintentionally.



HUD criminal history guidance


The work that provided the bases for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations continued in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.