New research by Generation Rent has revealed that white people are 36% more likely to receive a positive response when applying to rent on SpareRoom than Black people.
Profiles where the user appears to be white are also 17% more likely than Black profiles to receive any response at all, in a UK wide research project analysing over 200 properties.
Two profiles were created on the rental platform using artificial intelligence images, identical in all but name and ethnicity. The white facing profile was significantly more likely to receive responses and specifically positive responses to requests to view properties.
Messages asking to view properties were sent within minutes of each other from both profiles and yet the white facing account routinely received very different responses.
How were the messages different?
Some responses were starkly different, with refusals to view the property sent to the Black facing profile compared to more positive responses to the white facing profile.
Response to the white facing profile: “Hi Lizzie, can you tell me a bit about how long you would be looking for the room, do you work local etc. Many thanks.”
Response to the Black facing profile: “Hello, sorry it’s just been let.”
Response to the white facing profile: “Good afternoon. Do you work or study? Who is the property for?”
Response to the Black facing profile: “Good afternoon. Sorry we do not know when we can do a viewing at this property. Many thanks”
More common however were subtler uses of gatekeeping to view properties, with questions being sent to the Black facing profile and positive responses to a viewing sent to the white facing profile.
Response to the white facing profile: “Hello. When would you like to have a view? Can you tomorrow?”
Response to the Black facing profile: “Hello. Are you in Birmingham?”
It is extremely concerning to see racism and discrimination at play, preventing People of Colour from accessing safe and secure housing. The lack of homes for minority ethnic renters to move into is not only extremely stressful and distressing when looking for somewhere to move or when facing eviction, but also forces many to have to endure poor conditions in the properties they can get access to.
The Renters (Reform) Bill will grant renters in England much needed security in their homes, which will be extremely beneficial for renters, especially People of Colour. However, until there are enough affordable and social homes for people to live in, biases – whether unconscious or not – will continue to deny people the homes they deserve.
How can I get involved?
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