Qualified Renters Need Not Apply: Race and Voucher Discrimination in the Metro Boston Rental Housing Market

Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy, Fall 2020

A study by a team of researchers at The Housing Discrimination Testing Program (HDTP) at Suffolk University Law School finds evidence of discrimination against Black renters and low-income renters who use Section 8 housing vouchers in the Greater Boston area. An Analysis Group team including Managing Principal Jee-Yeon Lehmann and Senior Analyst Judson Woods provided pro bono support for the study by conducting statistical analysis of testing results and coauthoring the study report, Qualified Renters Need Not Apply: Race and Voucher Discrimination in the Metro Boston Rental Housing Market. The Boston Foundation and the Fund for Racial Justice Innovation provided financial support for the project. The results were published in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.

The report details widespread discriminatory practices by landlords and real estate agents that result in the denial of equal housing access to a large percentage of qualified renters. Testing revealed that housing providers showed Black testers who were trained to pose as potential renters about half the number of apartments they showed to White testers. Housing providers told White testers that more units were available, offered them more incentives to rent, and made fewer positive comments about the units to Black testers.

This testing study also uncovered high levels of discrimination against potential renters with Section 8 housing vouchers, regardless of race; 90% of those who indicated that they were using vouchers faced discriminatory behavior from rental agents. The federal government’s Section 8 voucher program helps low-income families, elderly people, and individuals with disabilities to afford rental housing in the private market. Discrimination toward holders of Section 8 vouchers is explicitly illegal in Massachusetts.

Read the study


Langowski J, Berman W, Brittan G, LaRaia C, Lehmann JY, Woods J