HELENA (AP) - More than one-fourth of American Indians trying to rent apartments in major urban areas of Montana, New Mexico and Minnesota encountered some form of discrimination from landlords, a new federal housing study concludes.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development study released Monday found that Indians attempting to rent apartments in the three states consistently received less-favorable treatment than white renters and were subject to some form of discrimination 29 percent of the time.
The study was based on 297 rental tests conducted last year in eight ''metropolitan'' areas in the three states, and 100 sales tests in New Mexico. It marked the first time HUD has measured housing discrimination against Indians.
Margery Austin Turner, the study's lead researcher and director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center in Washington D.C., said discrimination against Indian renters often was more blatant than discrimination encountered by other minorities. HUD had previously conducted similar housing discrimination tests for blacks, Hispanics and Asians.
Indians frequently were denied access to available housing while other minorities were more likely to experience more subtle forms of discrimination, such as higher rents and application costs or less advice and assistance from rental agencies, Turner said.
The study was based on a specific test used for years to test discrimination faced by other minorities. A pair of researchers - one white and one minority - pose as prospective renters with similar backgrounds. They visit landlords and rental agencies separately to inquire about advertised rental properties. HUD says the methodology provides direct evidence of the different treatment minorities receive.
An example of discrimination that occurred in Billings was typical, HUD officials said.
A 43-year-old Indian woman from Billings asked about renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city for herself. She was willing to pay between $250 to $300 a month.
However, the building manager told her that the advertised unit was no longer available and failed to tell her about any alternatives. A few hours later, a 55-year old white woman met with the same manager and asked about the same kind of apartment.
She was told the advertised unit was still available and was able to walk through the apartment the same afternoon, the study said.
Overall, the study found that Indian renters in the three states experienced consistent adverse treatment comparable to whites in 28.5 percent of the cases. While 28.6 percent of Montana Indians faced housing discrimination, 33.3 percent of the Indians who applied for rental housing in Minnesota and 25.7 percent in New Mexico were discriminated against, the study found.