Barriers remain for black, Latino renters in Portland

An audit shows preferential treatment for white renters in 12 of 25 cases.

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An audit released by the Portland Housing Bureau indicated preferential treatment for white renters in 12 of 25 cases, suggesting the city is still struggling with discriminatory housing practices.

From the Portland Tribune:

The 11-page audit report, ‘Race, National Origin, Familial Status, and Disability Disparate Treatment in Portland Rental Housing,’ found that in about a third of the cases Portland-area landlords discriminated against potential renters because of their race, national origin, disabilities or family status.

“Of 51 tests conducted in the first phase of testing, 19 (37 percent) showed adverse differential treatment toward testers belonging to a protected class (five on the basis of race, seven based on national origin, four based on familial status, three on the basis of disability),” according to the report released during the afternoon April 21. “Another eight tests from the first phase were inconclusive.”

In a statement, city Commissioner Dan Saltzman said: “I am deeply troubled by the results of this testing. Everyone should have the same access to housing of their choice and should not be treated differently based on the color of their skin, their national origin, the size of their family or their disability.”

Read the report here. reports on the methodology of the audit:

Audit testing works by pairing two prospective renters who each seek housing from the same landlord, with one renter white and one from a protected class. Testers share similarities, such as age, gender and income, to help reveal if they are treated differently based on other factors — such as race or disability.

Although Commissioner Nick Fish, in charge of the Portland Housing Bureau in 2011, and the City Council pledged annual audit testing, the newly released results  are the first in four years.

In a separate report, says Portland is planning on decreasing the frequency of such testing.

“We are going to continue to do this. It’s probably not going to be an annual basis, but at least every other year,” Saltzman said. “If that’s a deviation from our plan, then I guess I’m announcing a deviation from our plan.”

The Fair Housing Council of Oregon conducted Portland’s audit testing as part of a $70,000 contract. Executive Director Pegge McGuire said even one instance of differential treatment is too much and she’s “absolutely” disappointed Saltzman doesn’t want to pay for annual testing.

Rents are rising across Portland, where availability is scarce. But current development projects might ease that tension.


Area rents increased by about 6 percent over the last year, from $1.17 to $1.24 a square foot, according to a survey of apartment owners and managers by rental industry trade association Multifamily NW.

That brought the average rent to $944 for the average one-bedroom, one bathroom apartment. And apartments were harder to find. Apartment vacancy fell to 3.1 percent — half a percentage point lower than the last survey, conducted six months ago.

On average, a rental property in central Portland is available for nine days.