Why Do Landlords Still Discriminate (and What Can Be Done About It)?

57 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2008 Last revised: 7 Oct 2008

Robert G. Schwemm

University of Kentucky - College of Law


This Article deals with the problem of racial discrimination in rental housing in the United States and the role of the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 ('FHA') in addressing this problem. National testing studies show that the levels of rental discrimination against blacks and Hispanics have remained virtually unchanged for the past three decades, despite the FHA having had the most effective enforcement system of any of the Nation's civil rights laws for most of this time. By now, it is clear that FHA litigation has failed to put a dent in rental discrimination based on race. Something new must be tried.

This Article is an attempt to start a new conversation about this issue. Part I reviews the evidence for the ongoing nature of rental discrimination in the United States. Part II surveys the record of the legal 'cure' for this problem (i.e., enforcement of the FHA), particularly in the two decades since the FHA's 1988 amendments strengthened its enforcement provisions. Part III provides an overview of the rental housing market in the United States, which shows, inter alia, that minorities make up an ever increasing portion of this market. Part IV reviews what we know - and don't know - about race discrimination in housing rentals. A lengthy concluding Part V tries to identify some lessons from other fields, such as economics and psychology, that might help guide the effort to achieve better FHA compliance in rental opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities.

Keywords: housing, discrimination, housing discrimination, fair housing, race, rental

Suggested Citation

Schwemm, Robert G., Why Do Landlords Still Discriminate (and What Can Be Done About It)?. John Marshall Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1002636

Robert G. Schwemm (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States

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