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Urban rental housing market: Caste and religion matters in access

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Urban rental housing market: Caste and religion matters in access

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This study attempts to identify the forms of discrimination experienced by Dalits and Muslims in the rental housing market in five metropolitan areas of the National Capital Region of Delhi. A combination of three distinct methods, the telephonic audit, in-person or face-to-face audit, and studies, is used to capture the phenomenon of discrimination and unequal outcomes for prospective Dalit and Muslim tenants in the urban rental housing market. The study finds that houseowner prejudices deny housing for both Dalits and Muslims, with Muslims experiencing greater discrimination. The study also found that Dalits and Muslims who manage to get homes on rent have to do so by agreeing to unfair terms and conditions.
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HOUSING DISCRIM INATION
Economic & Political Weekly EPW june 27, 2015 vol l nos 26 & 27 47
The authors would like to offer their gratitude to Vani K Borooah for the
immense support offered by him i n the writing of this paper.
Sukhadeo Thorat (thoratsukhadeo@yahoo.co.in) is Emeritus Professor at
at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru
Universit y, New Delhi; A nuradha Banerjee (banerjee.anb@gmail.com)
teaches at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, JNU;
Vinod K Mishra (vinodcsrd217@gmail.com) is at the Indian Institute of
Dalit Studies, New Delhi; and Firdaus R izvi ( rdausrizvi@gmail.com)
teaches at the Centre for Development Studies, School of Social Science
and Policy, Central University of Bihar, Patna.
Urban Rental Housing Market
Caste and Religion Matters in Access
Sukhadeo Thorat, Anur adha Ba nerjee, Vinod K Mishra, Firdaus Rizvi
This st udy attempts to identify the forms of discrimination
experienced by Dalits and Muslims in the rental housing
market in five metropolitan areas of the National Capital
Region of Delhi. A combination of three distinct
methods, the telephonic audit, in-person or face-to-face
audit, and studies, is used to capture the phenomenon
of discrimination and unequal outcomes for prospective
Dalit and Muslim tenants in the urban rental housing
market. The study finds that houseowner prejudices
deny housing for both Dalits and Muslims, with Muslims
experiencing greater discrimination. The study also
found that Dalits and Muslims who manage to get
homes on ren t have to do so by agreei ng to un fair te rms
and conditions.
Market discrimination on caste and religious lines
r emains a persistent problem in the Indian economy
(Thorat and Newman 2010). The urban rental hous-
ing market is no exception to this practice. Discrimination in
the metropolitan housing market has been investigated by a
number of scholars in the West, and, in particular, in the
United States (US), on the basis of well-developed methodolo-
gies. Although several studies of the urban rental market have
been undertaken in India too, its discriminatory aspects have
been neglected. The discriminatory working of the urban
rental market and the nature of discrimination faced by per-
sons b elonging to certain excluded groups—based on caste or
religion—are areas that have not been studied by mainstream
scholars. This paper examines this issue in detail. It focuses on
identifying the forms of discrimination experienced by Dalits
and by the Muslims in the rental housing market in fi ve metro-
politan areas of the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi. The
issue has been analysed from both the demand and the supply
sides. The demand side includes Dalit and the Muslim home-
seekers facing unequal treatment in the housing market vis-à-vis
the upper-caste Hindus; whereas the supply side includes dis-
crimination practised by the house providers, that is, either the
owners themselves (the landlords) or the real estate agents and
brokers who identify the properties available on rent.
Data and Methodology
The “audit method” has been used in this study to measure
discrimination directly as also to provide an insight into the
circumstances under which discrimination occurs. The sample
design consisted of a study of fi ve metropolitan cities in the
NCR, namely, Delhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and
NOIDA. Drawing upon a methodology developed by US scholars,
the study makes suitable modi cations in the former to adapt
it to the Indian urban rental market. A combination of three
distinct methods, namely, the telephonic audit, in-person or
face-to-face audit and recording of experiences through case
studies, has been used to capture the phenomenon of existing
discrimination and unequal outcomes for Dalit and Muslim
tenants in the urban rental housing market.
Tel ep hon ic A udi t S urv ey
Discrimination in the housing markets can be measured over
the phone without personal contact between agents/house pro-
viders and potential tenants (Massey and Lundy 2001). For this
survey, the telephone numbers of the house providers were
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
june 27, 2015 vol l nos 26 & 27 EPW Econom ic & Political Weekly
48
Table 1: Overall Resp onse to Home- seekers thro ugh Telephonic Aud it: NCR 2012
Respons e Categor y Upper-c aste Hindus Dalits Muslims National C apital Reg ion (NCR)
Total Cases Percentage Total Cases Percentage Total Cases Percentage Total Cases Percentage ( N=1,479)
Positive/inclusion 492 99.80 289 58.62 165 33.47 946 63.96
Positive with d ifferential ter ms and conditions 1 0.20 114 23.12 176 35.70 291 19.68
Negative/exclusion 0 0 90 18.26 152 30.83 242 16.36
Total 493 100 493 100 493 100 1,479 100
Pearson chi -square= 479.628; As ymp Sig (2 sided) – 0.000.
Total cases/s ample size = 1479 (that is , Hindus, Dalit s and Muslims co mprising 493 sam ples each).
Source: Data generated by telephonic audit, January–March 2012.
d ocumented from the section on classifi ed advertisements in
r eputed dailies and from websites dealing with the real estate/
housing market for conduct of the audit. Matched sets of auditors
(that is, those seeking a house on rent) were trained and mock
drills were conducted for them to pose as home-seekers for the
related advertised housing units. The set/pair consisted of three
individuals representing the upper-caste Hindu, Dalit and Mus-
lim communities. Home providers, that is, real estate owners,
brokers and landlords, especially those who had placed adver-
tisements seeking tenants for their properties in the NCR were
contacted after a scanning of the classifi ed columns in newspa-
pers and real estate websites. This was followed by preparation
of identical curriculum vitae (CV) for the auditors or so-called
home-seekers, with their respective CVs differing from each
other only in respect of the name chosen to reveal the caste/
religion of the home-seeker. All the relevant characteristics of
the home-seekers were identical, except their caste and religion,
so that the impact of the caste and religion could be ascertained.
The auditors had collected information on various parameters,
including the type of the dwelling unit; the monthly rent
charged; amount of advance to be paid for the house; payment
schedule; and the nature of response. In addition, the auditors
were asked to make notes of the behavioural aspects of the
home providers, to capture additional variations in the discrimi-
natory treatment meted out to particular communities. A
matching sample of 493, each from high-caste Hindu, Dalit and
Muslim potential home-seekers looking for a house on rent, was
drawn, to make up a total of 1,479 home-seekers.
Face -to-Fa ce In- perso n Audit Surve y
In addition to the telephonic audit survey, a direct face-to-face
in-person audit method was also used. The method which is
termed as the “Fair Housing Audit Method” was developed by
fair housing organisations in the US as an investigative tool.
This was fi rst used in research by Weink et al (1979), and later
by many other researchers (Yinger 1986; Turner et al 2002).
This method has several advantages over other methods that
do not have a rigorous control treatment design (Yinger 1986).
In this method, a set of trained auditors (home-seekers) repre-
senting a Dalit, a Muslim and an upper-caste Hindu are
matched ceteris paribus, that is, all their f amily conditions and
economic characteristics remain the same and each of them
then c ons ecutiv ely visits a la ndlor d or re al e state agent /broke r
in search of similar housing units. Discrimination is identifi ed
through the differential treatment meted out to members of
both the com mun ities in an effort to “catch the discr iminators
in the act of discriminating” (Yinger 1986). In addition, the
nature of the conversation between the provider and the
home-seekers is recorded to capture variations in the pattern
of the treatment accorded to members of these communities. A
total sample size of 198 cases of Hindus, Dalits and Muslims,
with 66 matched samples each of potential home-seekers was
used.
Recording o f Experiences t hrough Case Studie s
The discrimination faced by the Dalits and Muslims has been
additionally captured in a set of 26 case studies. These specifi c
studies were conducted through face-to-face interviews of the
Dalits and Muslims, who had actually experienced the dis-
crimination. The discrimination was also captured through
face-to-face interviews and interactions with the landlords,
real estate agents and brokers, in order to capture the inner
story and additional information on the reasons for discrimi-
nation in the housing market. Finally, the discrimination
meted out on the basis of caste and religion to the Dalit and
Muslim home-seekers was subjected to statistical tests,
namely, the chi-square and logistic regression tests.
Empirical Results
The discrimination prevalent in the rental housing market in
the NCR was explored in terms of its incidence and magnitude.
In the fi eld, the upper-caste Hindu, Dalit and Muslim auditors
(home-seekers) received three different responses/outcomes
while seeking a house on rent. These included: (a) Positive
with willingness to give the accommodation on rent; (b) Nega-
tive or denial of accommodation on rent to the home-seeker;
and (c) Positive but with differential terms and conditions for
particular communities (that is, charging of higher rent, or
setting a limit on the period of stay for the prospective tenant,
restrictions on the type of food to be consumed by the poten-
tial tenant and on the latter’s mobility, which was often tanta-
mount to indirect denial or compelled the home-seeker to
r eject the offer by refusing to adhere to the conditions
i mposed). The complete denial to rent out the house to Dalits
and Muslims despite their attributes being similar to those of
the high-caste Hindus, that is, category (b), and willing to rent
out the home but with differential terms and conditions, that
is, category (c), are examples of overt discrimination against
members of these two communities vis-à-vis members of the
high-caste Hindu community, to whom the landlords were
willing to rent out the accommodation. This positive response
without the imposition of any additional condition is regarded
as an instance of the absence of discrimination.
Table 1 presents the number and percentage of respondents
in the three specifi ed categories and highlights the incidence
of discrimination faced by Dalit and Muslim home-seekers on
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
Economic & Political Weekly EPW june 27, 2015 vol l nos 26 & 27 49
Table 2: Overall Re sponse to Home -seekers th rough Face-to- Face/In-per son Audit: NCR 2012
Respons e Categor y Upper-c aste Hindus Dalits Muslims National C apital Reg ion
Total Cases Percentage Total Cases Percentag e Total Cases Percentage Total Cases Percentage ( N=198)
Positive/inclusion 64 96.97 32 48.48 19 28.79 115 58.08
Positive with d ifferential ter ms and conditions 2 3.03 5 7.58 7 10.60 14 7.07
Negative/Exclusion – 29 43.94 4 0 60.61 69 34.85
Total 66 100 66 100 66 100 198 100
Pearson chi -square= 61.670; As ymp Sig (2 sided) = 0.000.
Total cases/s ample size = 198 (that i s, Hindus, Dali ts and Muslims , comprising 6 6 samples eac h)
Source: Dat a generated by f ace-to face a udit, Januar y–March 2012.
the basis of the telephonic audit method, involving 1,479
home-seekers who constituted an equal number of 493 each
from among the upper-caste Hindus, Dalits and Muslims. At
the a ggregate level, about 64% of the home-seekers received a
positive response, 20% received a positive response with dis-
criminatory terms, while the remaining 16% received an out-
right negative response.
The responses received by the high-caste Hindus, low-caste
Dalits and Muslims, however, differed quite clearly from each
other. While all the 493 high-caste home-seekers received a
positive response, the corresponding proportion fell to 59% for
the Dalits and to merely 29% for the Muslims. A completely
negative response (despite the home-seekers in all the three
categories enjoying identical attributes except the difference
in their caste/religion) was given to 18% of the Dalit and 31%
of the Muslim home-seekers. The positive response with
d ifferent terms and the negative responses together work out
to 41% for Dalits and 66% for the Muslims.
Table 2 presents the number and percentages of the res-
pondents in the three categories—positive inclusion, positive
inclusion with differential conditions and negative exclusion—
based on the face-to-face or in-person audit method. The face-
to-face audits covered a sample of 198 home-seekers with an
eq ual numb er (6 6) of subje ct s fr om t he hi gh- ca ste Hindu, Dali t
and Muslim communities. At the aggregate level, about 58% of
the home-seekers received a positive response, 7% received a
positive response with discriminatory terms and the remain-
ing 33% received a negative response.
As in the case of telephonic audits, the response differed
quite clearly among the high-caste Hindu, Dalit and Muslim
home-seekers. While 97% of the high-caste Hindu home-seekers
received a positive response, the corresponding proportion
was 48% for Dalits and 30% for Muslims. On the other hand,
the negative response was seen in the case of 44% for the Dalit
and 61% for the Muslim home-seekers. The positive response
with different terms and the negative responses together were
observed in the case of 51% for the Dalit and 71% for the
M uslim home-seekers.
The comparison of the results of the telephonic audit
method and the face-to-face method indicated that the propor-
tion of negative responses was relatively high in the case of
face-to-face audits as the latter provide better opportunities to
the home-suppliers to identify and assess the social groups to
which the home-seekers belong. (This could also be due to the
small face-to-face sample as compared with that used in the
telephonic audit method.) While the negative responses
r eceived after the telephonic audits for the Dalit and Muslim
home-seekers were 18% and 31%, respectively, the corres-
ponding fi gures obtained post the face-to-face audit were 44%
and 62% for the Dalit and Muslim home-seekers, respectively.
The face-to-face audit revealed a high level of discrimination
in the urban rental housing market on the basis of caste
and religion.
Testing Discrimination Statistically
The results obtained from the two methods used above were
put to statistical test. In order to test the signifi cance of the
r elation between the two variables, namely, the caste and religion
of the home-seekers, and the response by the houseo wners, the
chi-square test was conducted as a non-parametric statistical
technique. The results turned out to be highly signifi cant, indi-
cating a close association between the caste religious affi lia-
tion of the two subjects and the responses of the owners (real
estate agents/brokers/landlords) in renting out the house. The
results also indicate that the caste and religion of the person is
a decisive factor in renting a house belonging to an upper-caste
Hindu in an urban area in the NCR.
Given the signi cance of the association, a logistic regres-
sion was used to determine whether the likelihood of receiv-
ing a positive response from the owner differed in accordance
with whether the home-seeker was an upper-caste Hindu, a
Dalit or a Muslim. Since the outcomes were dichotomous
( eit her positiv e or ne gat ive), t he r andom e ffec ts lo gist ic r egr es-
sion model was applied. The effects of caste and religion have
been represented in the model by the two variables, that is,
Muslim and Dalit.
This model is stated as: Log (pit /(1-pit)) = αi + βDit+ γMit
Dit is a dummy variable for an appropriate Dalit candidate;
Mit is a dummy variable for an appropriate Muslim candidate.
The subscript i refers to the number of owners contacted
(i=1, …..493), such that αi is a random effect for each of the
contacts made. The effect αi implies a correlation among the
calls made to the same owner and reduces the standard errors.
The logistic regression model was estimated by using the
Stata’s xt logit procedure. The effects are reported in the form
of an odds ratio.
Table 3 (p 50) indicates that there are statistically signifi cant
e ffects of both the variables, that is, caste and religion, on the
housing outcome based on the telephonic and the face-to-face
audit. Appropriately, in the case of the telephonic audit, an in-
dividual with a Dalit name had the odds of receiving a positive
outcome t hat we re just 0.0028 of the odds if he had a n equ iv a-
lent upper-caste Hindu name, which assumes the value of 1.
Sim ilarly, a n individual with a Muslim name had t he odds of a
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
june 27, 2015 vol l nos 26 & 27 EPW Econom ic & Political Weekly
50
positive outcome that were just 0.0010 of what an otherwise
equivalent person with an upper-caste Hindu name would
have of receiving a positive outcome. The model thus yielded
consistent fi ndings that the home-seekers with Dalit and
M uslim names were, on an average, signifi cantly less likely to
receive a positive outcome than home-seekers with an upper-
caste Hindu name.
In t he c ase of a face-to-face audit, an individual with a Dalit
name had the odds of a positive outcome that were just 0.0196
of the odds of an equivalent upper-caste Hindu name. Simi-
la rly, an i ndi vidual w ith a Mu sli m nam e ha d th e odds of a pos i-
tive outcome that were just 0.0076 of an otherwise equivalent
person with an upper-caste Hindu name. The results based on
the face-to-face audit confi rmed the results that were based on
the telephonic audit. The model thus yielded consistent fi nd-
ings that the home-seekers with Dalit and Muslim names
were, on an average, signifi cantly less likely to obtain a posi-
tive outcome to their quest for a rented house than equivalent
home-seekers with an upper-caste Hindu name. However, bet-
ween the Dalit and the Muslim, the likelihood of a positive
r esponse from a high-caste Hindu was less for a Muslim
(0.001) as compared to that for a Dalit (0.002), on the basis of
the telephonic audit method. However, for the face-to-face
a udit also, the likelihood of a positive response was higher for
a Dalit (0.019) as compared with that of a Muslim (0.007).
Process of Discrimination
Discrimination by Landlords: It is implicit in the behaviour
of the landlord to try and know the caste and religion of the
prospective tenant. The landlords surveyed in this study
through both telephonic audits and in-person (face-to-face)
audits often turned directly negative due to the caste and the
religion of the prospective tenant during the initial contact. In
case of the Dalit, when a high-caste landowner had dif culty
in learning about the caste background through the family
name (as some family names are common to the high as well
as low caste), offered to provide accommodation, only to with-
draw them after the caste identity was revealed. The study,
therefore, brings to the fore the fact that on the supply side, it
is the suppliers or landlords themselves who are involved in
the act of discrimination, though there are contextual differ-
ences between the Dalit and the Muslim.
Apart from the direct refusal to give the house on rent, in
the other cases considerable pretexts are made by the land-
lords even if the prospective tenants from the Dalit or Muslim
community are educated and meet all the other conditions
laid down by the landlord. In certain instances the Dalit tenant
faced harassment, with the landlord forcing him to vacate the
house if the caste affi liation was revealed after the landlord
had given the house on rent. Landlords belonging to the higher
castes often associate various terms like “uncleanliness,” “pol-
lution,” “non-vegetarianism,” “intolerance of other tenants to-
wards non-vegetarians,” and offer other excuses as pretexts
for not giving a house on rent to the Dalit and Muslim tenants.
A Dalit home-seeker stated,
After t he landlord enquired in detail about my profession and fam ily
background, I was asked to hand over cer tain documents for police
verifi cation, which I duly did. When the landlord lear nt about my caste
from the name as it appeared in the documents, I was instantly denied
the house, with the landlord alluding to the non-vegetarian food
h abits of Dalits as a reason for the denial.
As “members of a highest caste, we have to observe norms
by avoiding any association with non-vegetarian Dalits,” was
the landlord’s explanation for refusing to rent his house to
the Dalit.
In another case a Dalit was refused a house on rent after the
high-caste landlord came to know about his caste from the
broker. These searches for a home also reiterate the Dalits
experiences of caste discrimination in other spheres of life,
while subjecting them to several compromises, including
insulting behaviour by the home pro-
viders. Strong preconceived notions or
prejudices about the Dalits or Muslims
are also revealed in the case studies of
the landlords during recordings of their
preferences for tenants. Further, it has
emerged from face-to-face interviews
that within Delhi, the pattern of dis-
crimination in the rental market differs
across localities, but there is rarely a
l ocality in the sample which portrays
non-discriminatory working of the rental market and is com-
pletely devoid of exclusionary practices.
For the Muslims, on the other hand, outright rejection is the
common reaction in most cases, particularly if the landlord
happens to belong to the highest Hindu caste. Such landlords
always exhibit a preference for high-caste Hindus over any
other caste or community. Landlords have also expressed the
fear of annoying their community if they rent out their
premises to Muslim tenants. The Muslims have also been re-
jected often under the pretext of being non-vegetarians and
sometimes have even been openly advised to look for housing
in a Muslim locality, thereby reinforcing the concept of resi-
dential segregation in the city.
Why Do Landlords Discriminate?
It has clearly emerged from the survey that the reasons behind
the discrimination practised by the landlords are rooted in
their specifi c preferences pertaining to the caste and religion
of the prospective tenant. Although an analysis of the reasons
for discrimination in the urban rental market would need a
Table 3: Logist ic Regressio n—Telephonic Aud its
Random Effects in Logistic Regression
Odds Rati o Std Error z-value P > |z| [95% Co nf Interva l]
Predic tors: (Compar ed to High Cas te)
Dalit (telephon e audit) 0.0028794 0.0028943 -5.82 0.00 0 0.0004015 0.02065
Dalit (face-to -face audit) 0.0196286 0.0203693 -3.79 0.000 0.0025 678 0.1500418
Muslims (telephone audit) 0.0010225 0.0010281 -6.85 0.000 0.0001425 0.007338
Muslims (face-to -face audit) 0.0076923 0.0 080073 -4. 68 0.000 0.001 0.0591712
_const ant (teleph one audit) 492 492.49 97 6.19 0.00 0 6 9.167 3499.703
_constant (face-to-face audit) 65 65.49809 4.14 0.0 00 9.019638 468.4224
Source: Es timated by the a uthors.
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
Economic & Political Weekly EPW june 27, 2015 vol l nos 26 & 27 51
more detailed study than the present one, it is obvious that
these preferences are in uenced by the prejudice that high-
caste Hindus have about Dalits and Muslims, which, in turn,
infl uence their choice of tenants. While the market principle
entails that economic gain from rental income would deter-
mine the renting decision, in the case of Dalits and Muslims
non-economic reasons are also factors that determine the
d ecision to rent, which also represents a case of market failure
stemming from social discrimination. Face-to-face audits
r evealed that even if the Dalit or Muslim home-seekers are
willing to pay the market rent or in some cases somewhat
higher than the market rent, they are still denied the house in
a majority of the instances. This has been the experience of
even highly e ducated, well-paid and well-placed Dalit and
Muslim home-seekers. Thus, the decision to supply houses to
Dalits and Muslims is almost exclusively associated with their
caste and religious identity, and tends to be outside the scope
of their economic and educational standing.
A landlord’s choice in most parts of the NCR generally goes
in favour of the high-caste Hindus. All kinds of explanations
are then given by the high-caste landlord to justify his denial
to Dalits and Muslims. In the case of Dalits, the reasons for
d enial are obviously infl uenced and shaped by the customary
beliefs and caste-based norms which stipulate that Dalits are
impure and polluting, and unfi t to be associated with, which
justifi es their social and residential exclusion. When asked
why he does not prefer a Dalit tenant, a landlord in Faridabad
pointed out, “The standard of living of Dalits does not match
with our standard of living. Often their lack of hygiene and
cleanliness is a problem.”
When further questioned as to whether he would agree to
provide accommodation to a Dalit (or a Muslim) if they were
ready to pay a higher rent than that received by him presently,
he replied that money is not the only consideration and that
his choice of tenants would not change even he were offered
more money.
In the case of Muslims, the stereotypes and prejudices prev-
alent about them, including their non-vegetarian food habits
and the attitudes that have evolved about them in the wake of
the spread of extremism also in uence the landlords’ decision
to deny them rented accommodation. Thus, the prejudices
prevalent about them also lead to their exclusion from the
normative framework of high-caste Hindu society in the NCR.
A landlord in Gurgaon openly stated that he would avoid
g iving his house on rent to a Muslim for security and safety
reasons. Another landlord remarked that he would not enter-
tain a Muslim tenant because he was unwilling to face the ire
of his community and that he has to take cognisance of the
society he lives in.
The fi ndings of the survey also reveal that the Dalits and
Muslims who have somehow managed to get houses on rent
have done so by agreeing to unfair terms and conditions. This
was mentioned by 23% of the Dalit and 36% of the Muslim res-
pondents in the case of the telephonic audit, and by 8% of the
Dalits and 11% of the Muslims in case of the face-to-face audit.
The unfair terms which the Dalits and Muslims sometimes
a ccede to in order to end their desperate search for a house
i nclude high advance payments along with security deposits,
higher charges, relatively high rents and restrictions on their
food habits and mobility, which ultimately turn out to be nega-
tive because of the differential treatment they entail.
Practices of Property Deale rs
How do the property dealers tackle the discriminatory behav-
iour of high-caste Hindu landlords? Several issues emerge
from the in-depth interviews with the real estate agents/
property dealers and their agents or brokers in the fi ve metro-
politan cites of the NCR. The property dealers operating
through the brokers collect information on the supply and
d emand of houses from the brokers. On the supply side, the
brokers furnish information about the available vacancies,
landlord characteristics and preferences of the landlords to
the real estate agents. Sometimes, the landlord directly
a pproaches the real estate agent for the deals. The brokers
introduce the prospective clients to the real estate owner or to
the landlord, and then guide the clients to the dwelling units
for an initial contact.
The interviews with the estate dealers showed that the deal-
ers who act as “middlemen” are primarily guided by the profi t
motive. However, given the preferences of the landlords, in
their strategy, they factor in caste, religion and other prefer-
ences of the landlords. Therefore, the dictates of the landlord
reign supreme in their deals and they function very well
within this limitation. When confronted with the discrimina-
tory experiences of Dalits and Muslims, the dealers engage in
a “blame game.” The real estate agents and brokers blame the
landlords for indulging in discriminatory practices, which
push them to change their strategy. Since the brokers deal
with the landlords frequently, they have no option but to com-
ply with the landlord’s choice in selecting tenants. The prop-
erty dealers also apply different strategies for Dalits and Mus-
lims. They advise the Dalits to avoid the landlord if he/she
happens to be an upper-caste Hindu. A broker reported that
once he had taken a Dalit to a high-caste landlord, and the
l atter was very annoyed at this and scorned the broker by
inging caste-based comments on the Dalit home-seeker. Since
then this broker generally avoids introducing Dalits to a high-
caste landlord. The broker also narrated that he had developed
a common strategy for Dalits and Muslims, which was to offer
houses to them only in a locality populated predominantly by
landlords who are either Muslims or belong to the lower rungs
of the caste hierarchy. He claims that this strategy has stood
him in good stead and he has more often than not succeeded
in securing a rented house for his Dalit and Muslim clients in
these localities.
The caste factor also gets reinforced through the type of
neighbourhood and community affi liations of the neighbour-
hood. The pattern of exclusion and discrimination varies
s patially from one locality to another. In mixed localities,
which generally happen to be populated by lower-income
groups, such discriminatory practices are less prevalent. In the
case of the Muslims, the discrimination was found to be
HOUSING DI SCRIMINATION
ju ne 27, 20 15 vol l no s 2 6 & 27 EPW Ec onomic & Politica l We ekly
52
widespread even across localities, and the Hindu–Muslim con-
sideration plays a fairly uniform role. A broker narrated his
experience that in his Hindu-dominated locality, it is very dif-
ficult to arrange a house on rent for Muslims. Generally, Hindu
landlords rent the house to persons of their own religion, re-
sulting in the near-exclusion of Muslims from non-Muslim lo-
calities. It has been seen that though discrimination in the
rental housing market exists for both Dalits and Muslims, inci-
dences of the direct denial of houses are higher in the case of
the Muslims. There are less spatial variations in discrimina-
tion against Muslims because in their case the pattern is ubiq-
uitous in n ature, whereas discrimination against the Dalits
exhibits more variations across geographical space. The net re-
sult of such discriminatory tendencies is the poor outcomes for
these two communities in the rental housing market.
Consequences of Discrimination
The Experiences of Home-seekers: The net result of such
discriminator y tendencies, be they caste-based as in the case
of Dalits or religion-based as in the case of Muslims, is that
they entail unpleasant outcomes for both these communities
in the rental housing market. The discussion relating to the
consequences of discrimination in the rental market is based
on the 26 case studies of those who have experienced discrimi-
nation while seeking houses on rent in the past. It has emerged
from the case studies that the refusal of accommodation
based on caste and religion, as in case of the D alits and the
Muslims is an unending stor y full of painful experiences,
many compromises and undesirable outcomes for the com-
munities concerned. The denial of housing to Dalits and
Muslims results in more time spent searching for homes,
leading to high search costs, the renting of substandard
a ccommodation, which may not be in conformity with the
income level of the prospective tenant, long-distance accom-
modation entailing high transportation costs to and from
the workplace, having to pay rents that are higher than the
prevailing market rents, exorbitantly high hikes in annual
rent, restrictions on food habits like the consumption of
non-vegetarian food, and other restrictions leading to the
untimely and forced exit of the tenant from the accommoda-
tion and the concomitant high negative psychological costs
of the rental experience for the tenant.
A Dalit home-seeker had once reported his ordeal resulting
from a virtually endless search for a house due to the denial of a
house to him by the landlords on one pretext or the other. Often
he would be asked to pay a rent beyond his capacity. In many
instances, preconditions relating to the consumption of non-
vegetarian meals and some instructions relating to cleanliness
and hygiene would be stipulated by the landlord. Many a time
the landlord would hike the rent annually by an exorbitant
amount, forcing him to vacate the house. Such problems also
often led the person to live in an unsuitable accommodation or
locality, which was also located at a long distance from place of
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HOUSING DISCRIMINATION
Economic & Political Weekly EPW june 27, 2015 vol l nos 26 & 27 53
work and consequently entailed increased transportation cost.
In another case, a Dalit home-seeker reported:
The search for a house has become a never-ending story for me. Every
time the same story gets repeated. I feel uncomfortable facing such
probing questions about my caste. I am made to feel guilty about my
origins every time I ask for accommodation. This kind of practice in a
city like Delhi is very surprisi ng and unfortunate for people like us.
The compromises and sacrifi ces of Muslims are also never-
ending. A Muslim home-seeker revealed that he had searched
almost every locality in one area in East Delhi for rent, but not
a single landlord agreed to give him accommodation. Finally,
he had to rent a house in Panjabi Saudagar Colony, which is
mostly inhabited by Muslims. Most of the Muslims who are un-
able to get a residence elsewhere usually come to this colony.
The Muslim tenant lamented that despite being highly edu-
cated, he had to face embarrassing situations at times during
his search. Before he was pushed to live in a predominantly
Muslim locality, he had to approach about 20 landlords, facing
denial each time, and wasting nearly two weeks of precious
time looking for elusive accommodation. Another tenant
r ecounted his similar experiences before he too landed up into
Panjabi Saudagar Colony, he was repeatedly denied housing of
his choice. Now he has to commute longer distances to reach
his place of work.
In yet another case, the Muslim tenant is an assistant profes-
sor. Before coming to Faridabad, he used to live in Greater
N oida. He shifted to Faridabad in 2008. He had to visit houses
in nearly 50 places before managing to nd the present one,
which is a substandard place adjacent to slums in the neigh-
bourhood. The outcome is that he too has to commute long
distances and is forced to pay high rent even for his shabby ac-
commodation. He informed them that despite being highly
educated, he is unable to get accommodation in a preferred
place. When asked how he had managed to get the present
a ccommodation, he replied that his landlord works in Saudi
Arabia. Although the landlord is a Hindu, he has some affi nity
for Muslims as he is employed in a Muslim-dominated country.
And in another case, a Muslim tenant reported that the
m oment his identity was disclosed, he would be denied accom-
modation. As a last resort, he has now been forced to stay in a
dingy hostel in a particular locality as he has failed to nd a
proper fl at to stay in. He claimed that all his efforts to search
for a fl at with about at least 40 landlords in many nearby
places had ended in failure.
Another Iss ue for State Intervent ion
Finding a house on rent that is suitable to one’s tastes, prefer-
ences and budget in the NCR of India, which is also a signifi -
cant part of the real estate business of the country, may be an
ordeal for anyone, but is a particularly dif cult task for Dalits
and even more so for Muslims. There is fallout of such unequal
housing outcomes for both the individual and society. For
D alits and Muslims, discrimination foments high personal
costs, as they are forced to live in overcrowded and congested
localities with poor civic and environmental conditions even
when their budgets permit better quality accommodation.
Further, they are compelled to travel long distances to and
from their workplace, which entails additional costs.
More over, they often have to pay rents higher than what the
high-caste Hindu tenants have to pay. Exclusion from the de-
sirable localities push the Dalit and Muslim tenants by default
t owards places dominated by other members of their social
and religious affi liations, resulting in a sort of involuntar y resi-
dential segregation along caste and religious lines, which, in
turn, has negative social implications and costs for the nation.
For economists who believe that the market generally operates
in competitive ways, hence resulting in ef cient outcomes,
these ndings do not constitute pleasant news. On the con-
trary, discrimination in the rental market implies huge ineffi -
ciencies in the working of this market. For the discriminated
group of the Dalit and Muslim tenants, it, in fact, amounts to
market failure with unfair outcomes.
This study is probably the fi rst on the theme of rental dis-
crimination, and therefore calls for more research on various
dimensions, particularly the causes of discrimination in hous-
ing markets, in order to facilitate corrective measures and
p revent the occurrence of such discrimination in the future.
While this research builds up a case for more research on the
issue, the results are strong enough to cause concern for the
state. This kind of discrimination, therefore, demands state
interventions in the form of policies and programmes to
ensure fair access to the marginalised sections of Dalits and
Muslims to private rental markets in the metropolis. This
would, in turn, require legal safeguards against discrimi-
nation in the private rental market in the form of the en-
actment of certain laws that could act as a deterrent against
such overt discrimination. It would also require changes in
both the private and public housing policy. In the realm of the
private housing p olicy, these changes may include the intro-
duction of more people-friendly measures in the allocation of
land for residences in urban areas, and liberal fi nancing for
the construction of private houses by the Dalits and Muslims.
In the case of public housing, such policies would entail the
provision of more houses for the Dalits and Muslims, and
according preference in the allocation of public and govern-
ment housing, which would enable to get some relief from the
discriminatory treatment meted out to them in the private
rental market.
References
Massey, Douglas S and Gar vey Lundy (2001): “Use of Black English and Racial
Discriminat ion in Urban Hou sing Markets: New Methods and Findings,”
Urban Affairs Review, 36:452, Sage Publ ications.
Thorat, Sukhadeo and Katherine New man (eds) (2010): Blocked by Caste: Eco-
nomic Discrimination a nd Social Exclu sion in Mod ern India, New Delhi:
O xford University Press.
Turner, Marger y Austi n, Stephen L Ross, George Ga lster and John Yinger
(2002): “Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: National Re-
sults from Phase I of HDS 2000,” available at: ht tp://www.urban.org /url.
cfm ID=410821on 12.3.2012
Weink, Ronald E, Clifford E Reid, John C Simonson and Fr ederick J Eggers
(1979): “Measuring Discrimination in American Housing Markets: The
Housing Ma rket Prac tices Sur vey,” Washington DC: US Depar tment of
Housing and Urban Development, Washington DC.
Yinger, J (1986): “Measuring Discri mination with Fair Housing Audits: Caught
in the Ac t,American Economic Review, 76(5):881–93.
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Measuring Discrimination in American Housing Markets: The Housing Market Practices Survey
  • Ronald E Weink
  • Clifford E Reid
  • C John
  • Frederick J Simonson
  • Eggers
Weink, Ronald E, Clifford E Reid, John C Simonson and Frederick J Eggers (1979): "Measuring Discrimination in American Housing Markets: The Housing Market Practices Survey," Washington DC: US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington DC.