University housing discrimination

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University Housing in America is a place where students, at almost any university, can go and live on campus while attending classes. The Idaho State University housing webpage states, "The mission of University Housing is to provide secure, clean, and affordable living-learning environments that promote student engagement by encouraging and supporting opportunities for academic success, personal development, community building, and the well-being of each individual resident"(Idaho State University, n.d.). Statements like this are prevalent on college campuses. Universities attempt to establish a safe and secure environment in which students can study and socialize. When students choose to not live on campus a large number of them find housing near campus in apartments or homes. Depending on the type of college campus, some students will choose to live at home while taking classes. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and transgender individuals are no different, they too will choose to live on, near, or around campus.

"Current studies suggest that lesbian, gay, and bisexual students experience high rates of discrimination and harassment on campus" (Bernstein, n.d., p. 1). Unfortunately, anywhere large numbers of people gather there will be a potential to have someone discriminated against. This is especially the case on a college campus and in university housing. Discrimination is defined as "treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit:racial and religious intolerance and discrimination" ( LLC., 2009)

The 1968 Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of five protected classes. The Fair Housing Act was amended to seven classes in 1988 which including race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability. U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 45, states the provisions of the Fair Housing Act. It is unlawful to engage in "discriminatory housing practices" in the sale or rental of a housing unit. The code outlines prohibited practices, which include refusing to sell or rent a unit and offering different terms or conditions on the basis of any protected class (Fair housing).

Despite over 30 years of discrimination law, there is evidence of continuing discrimination in American housing, as documented by recent reports (Massey & Lundy, 2001).


This paper will be discussing housing discrimination and more specifically university housing discrimination. All laws pertaining to the general public and housing also apply to university housing. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States relates, "housing discrimination is one of the most virulent and intractable forms of discrimination. It occurs when purchase or rental of housing is denied to otherwise qualified individuals because of theirrace, ethnicity,gender,religion, marital status, or disability" (Hall, 2005). The history of housing discrimination indicated the courts have focused mainly on discriminatory intent and action as opposed to actions where minor impact was made (Hall, 2005). The earliest attempt to end housing discrimination occurred in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Buchanan v. Warley. In this case the courts applied the fourteenth amendment striking down a city ordinance requiring neighborhood racial segregation (Buchanan v. Warley, November 5, 1917).

Restrictive covenants were used in an effort to prevent certain types of people from living in specific areas. Generally restrictive covenants are attached to property for safety or commercial purposes. Examples include not building tall buildings in the area of an airport of constructing tall fences on corners of intersections. Residential property also use restrictive covenants detailing what color a house may be painted or even who is allowed to live in the house outside of the owner's nuclear family. In regards to race, the use of restrictive covenants was deemed constitutional in 1926 (Corrigan v. Buckley, May 24, 1926). However, in 1948 the ruling was overturned in Shelly v. Kraemer. The courts ruled the use of restrictive covenants constituted discrimination in violation of the fourteenth amendment. In a similar case in 1948 the courts relied on the 1866 Civil Rights Act to reach a similar conclusion (Hurd v. Hodge, May 3, 1948). By 1953 the courts removed the legal enforceability of restrictive covenants. Congress bolstered its stance against housing discrimination with Title VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

The court held that Congress could regulate the sale of private property in order to prevent racial discrimination when it ruled on Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. in 1968. Joseph Jones claims the Alfred H. Mayer Co. refused to sell him a house on the basis of his skin color. He brought the complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (now called Title 42, section 1982 of the U.S. Code). The District Court and the Court of Appeals agreed that section 1982 of the US code does not apply to private sales of items or property. The Supreme Court overturned previous court decisions. Section 1982 states, "All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property" (Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., June 17, 1968).

Housing discrimination has not been eliminated by the courts. In 1985 a nationwide study found massive racial segregation in public housing projects sheltering nearly ten million people (Hall, 2005). While the executive branch sets law, the judicial branch may take some blame as it has had little impact on housing discrimination.

University Housing

University housing issues have not necessarily made it to judgment in the courts, however that does not mean discrimination does not exist. On April 16, 2009 The Daily Texan newspaper related the news that Texas Christian University (TCU) announced its decision to not open any further housing communities. This comes just weeks before DiverCityQ living community was set to open its doors for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. It was planned to be part of the living-learning communities on the TCU campus (Staff, 2009). The Chancellor for TCU stated "Instead we will assess whether the concept of housing residential students based on themes supports the academic mission of the institution as well as our objective to provide a total university experience" (Staff, 2009).

The University of Hawaii is no stranger to controversy in regards to discrimination in their housing department. In the 2006-2007 school years Phi Ngo and Joseph O'Leary applied to university housing as a "same sex couple" and were denied. The two men lived in family housing on campus the previous year as students. A lawsuit was filed in March of 2008 quoting the interim director of University Housing Services which stated, "The University recognizes marital status as defined in Section 572-1 of the Hawai'i Revised Statutes" (Hipps, 2008). The statute restricts the term marriage to different-sex couples. In this case, Hawaii does not recognize same sex domestic partners

Issues of housing discrimination on college and university campuses are not limited to those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Housing discrimination also impacts those of different races and religions. At the University of Pennsylvania in 2001 a group of students performed research in the Philadelphia area studying racial discrimination. These students called 474 people in 79 apartment rental agencies. Using a script with the exact same background, income levels and rent requirements, they found significant race, class, and gender discrimination. The study shows,

While 76 percent of the males who spoke white middle-class English were ultimately offered an apartment to inspect, only 63 percent of the men who spoke black accented English were. The women fared worse -- 60 percent of those who spoke white middle-class English and 57 percent of those who spoke black accented English were offered apartments. And of those who spoke Black English Vernacular, only 44 percent of the men and 38 percent of the women were offered apartments (Smith, 2001)


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Associated Press (2009, April 16). TCU cancels plans for gay and lesbian campus housing. The Daily Texan,

Bernstein, L. (n.d.). Assessing the status of gay, lesbian and bisexual students on campus. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from

Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S 60 (November 5, 1917). LLC. (2009). Discrimination. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from

Fair housing act, U.S.C Â Title 42, Chapter 45 (Cornell University Law School ).

Hall, K. L. (2005). Housing discrimination. In The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States: Oxford University Press.

Hipps, J. (2008). Gay University of Hawaii couple settles law suite. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from

Massey, D. S., & Lundy, G. (2001). Use of black english and racial discrimination in urban housing markets; New methods and findings. Urban Affairs Review, 36(4), 452-469. Retrieved from

Smith, S. (2001). Speech patterns trigger housing discrimination. Research at Penn; Society. Retrieved on November 30, 2009 from: