There seems to be no dismantling bias in Boston-area housing market

A study found that Black people posing as prospective tenants were shown fewer apartments than whites.
A study found that Black people posing as prospective tenants were shown fewer apartments than whites.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File Photo

Bias against Black renters — what else is new?

According to Meghan E. Irons’s article “Strong bias against Black renters seen” (Page A1, July 1), an “undercover investigation . . . found that Black people posing as prospective tenants in Greater Boston were shown fewer apartments than whites and offered fewer incentives to rent, and that real estate agents cut off contact when the renters gave Black-sounding names like Lakisha, Tyrone, or Kareem.

“The white ‘testers’ in the study posing as would-be renters, on the other hand, easily secured tours of properties, were wooed with discounts, and got preferred treatment — such as the opportunity to view additional units — when looking at apartments.”


I used to live in Allston, and I volunteered for a similar study. I also visited apartments and got preferential treatment. I forget the organization I volunteered for, but I recall that I was grilled by the organization’s lawyer, who role-played with me in case the effort went to trial and I had to take the stand. That never happened (I believe either a settlement or some agreement was made).

Was that last week? Last year? No, I lived in Allston between 1979 and 1981. By my calculation, that’s — wait for it — about 40 years ago. And not one iota of progress.

Next time, researchers should save the money and just release the exact same study in 2060.

Jim Stewart


Fair housing laws have to be strictly enforced

It is extremely disturbing that housing discrimination still exists in the Boston area (“Strong bias against Black renters seen”). Nearly 40 years ago, a colleague, Judie Feins, and I carried out a study of housing discrimination in Boston (for Abt Associates, with funding from the City of Boston). Sadly, our findings were very similar to those reported by researchers at Suffolk University Law School, as presented in Meghan E. Irons’s article. Our 1981 survey “disclosed significant differences in the rental and sales housing offered to Blacks and whites, with substantially more housing being made available to whites.” These two studies provide one part of the answer to: What is institutional racism, and how does it harm Black and other nonwhite households?


In addition to providing safety and security, good housing can provide access to all kinds of opportunities, including highly rated schools, public transportation, and jobs. When Black households are disadvantaged in their search for appropriate housing, that helps to maintain segregated housing patterns and persistent, entrenched racism.

The constancy of the research findings is both an embarrassment and a call for more stringent enforcement of our fair housing laws.

Rachel G. Bratt


The writer is a professor emerita at Tufts University.

Professional organizations pay lip service to a persistent problem

Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that American society may be more segregated today than it was in the early 1970s, when fights over school busing erupted in Boston and other cities. Two recent Globe articles — one about a study showing that Black people in Greater Boston face discrimination in renting an apartment more than two-thirds of the time, and the other (”Black driver says she was followed and harassed,” Page A1, July 1) concerning the Black Groveland woman having to contend with a white man who challenged her right to be in her own neighborhood — make this painfully clear.

The rejection of all racism by Greg Vasil, speaking as chief executive of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, sounds like so much politically correct blather. We’ve heard it from realtors all over the country. Representatives of other professions make the same sorts of questionable claims of fairness.


These people all know that discrimination on the basis of race has been seen as disgraceful for years by righteous people, and that it is illegal. And so they all decry it. Yet it persists.

I’d like to see some of the people in these housing studies shamed by name: something like “A Black applicant approached realtor [name here] seeking an apartment, and [name] wronged them in the following ways.”

Will the hypocrisy of these organizations yield to their members being called out repeatedly? Why don’t we find out?

Lawrence Houghteling