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Surveys Point to Racial Bias by Landlords : Housing: Pasadena and El Monte fund studies that find whites were offered better terms and lower rents than better-qualified blacks. In some cases, discrimination against African-Americans is blatant.


THE REGION — Landlords and building managers in Pasadena and El Monte offered whites looking for apartments better terms and lower rents than they did to blacks with better qualifications during two recently completed studies by a local watchdog organization.

The Fair Housing Council of San Gabriel Valley, under contract to the two cities, compiled the studies using trained auditors who inquired about rental apartments at 34 randomly selected locations.

According to the studies, still in draft form, whites received favorable treatment at 18 of the 19 sites tested in El Monte and 12 of the 15 sites tested in Pasadena.

In both cities, a black auditor visited the site looking for an apartment first, followed 15 minutes later by a white auditor asking about the same rental. The auditors were given similar profiles, and were always women of about the same age, so that differences in treatment could be attributed to race.

Although the black auditors used profiles with higher incomes and more stable jobs than the white auditors, the landlords often showed them fewer units and quoted higher rents and deposit amounts.

The reports acknowledge that the samples were too small to reach an overall conclusion about housing discrimination in Pasadena and El Monte.

But Sandra Romero, executive director of the Fair Housing Council, said, "The audits clearly show that there is still discrimination against blacks in the rental market."

Pasadena and El Monte city officials commissioned the Fair Housing Council to conduct the audits as part of a report analyzing the extent of illegal housing discrimination in their cities. The assessment reports are required of all cities receiving community development block grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Gregory Robinson, project manager in the Pasadena housing department, said the city has received a copy of the draft report but declined to comment because officials are still studying the findings.

Juan Mirales, El Monte's community development officer, could not be reached for comment.

According to the studies, discrimination against black applicants was blatant at some sites. At one location in El Monte, a landlord told a black auditor no units were available. But 15 minutes later, the landlord showed a white auditor a vacant apartment.

In most cases, though, the landlords simply gave the white auditors easier contract terms.

The differential treatment was subtle at times. One landlord in Pasadena told the black auditor that only one apartment was available, and showed her only that unit. The same landlord showed the white auditor three units.

In another case in Pasadena, the black auditor asked for an application and was told that there were none left. Fifteen minutes later, the white auditor was given an application.

The audit fieldwork was conducted in Pasadena in May and in El Monte in November. The sites were spread across different areas of the cities and were randomly selected from advertisements in local newspapers for one- and two-bedroom unfurnished apartments as well as from buildings with vacancy signs.

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