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For Rent, Unless You’re Gay — or a Single Mom

For Rent, Unless You’re Gay — or a Single Mom

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A surprising new study by the University of British Columbia has discovered that gay male couples and single parents face significant discrimination in Vancouver's rental housing market, compared to straight couples.

The research, published in the August issue of the journal Social Problems, is the largest investigation of housing discrimination against single parents. Overall, the study found that male couples are nearly 25% more likely to be rejected by landlords, while single parents are approximately 15% more likely to be rejected.

"Vancouver has a reputation for tolerance of diversity in North America and a vibrant gay community," says lead author Nathanael Lauster, a professor in UBC's department of sociology. "This means that housing discrimination levels may even be higher in other cities."

Lauster says researchers analyzed nearly 1,700 online rental inquiries in metro Vancouver, one of Canada's largest and most culturally diverse cities, which also boasts strong housing laws to protect against discrimination. They discovered that discrimation varied significantly by neighborhood.

For example, communities with greater numbers of single-parent families exhibited increased levels of discrimination against single parents. The opposite was true, however, in neighborhoods with large gay populations -- such as Vancouver's West End and West Side -- which exhibited significantly lower levels of discrimination against male couples.

"This suggests that the bases for discrimination against same-sex couples and single parents may differ," says Lauster. "For gay couples, the discrimination is likely based in ignorance or moral objections that lessen with contact. For single parents, the discrimination may be based more on their real economic marginalization."

Inquiries were identical except for minor variations by five family types: heterosexual couple, male couple, female couple, single mother with child, and single father with child. The study found no significant differences in landlord responses to female couples compared to straight couples. According to recent census figures, Vancouver has more than 4,700 same-sex couples, about 10% of all same-sex couples in Canada.

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