One in three persons with a migrant background looking for a flat experiences discrimination in the housing market

Year of issue 2020
Date 2020.01.29

Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency: Enforcing the prohibition of discrimination more rigorously

Discrimination in the housing market is a widespread problem. According to a representative survey commissioned by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, approximately 15 per cent of all respondents who had been looking for a flat within the last ten years had experienced discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or origin. This affects people with a migrant background in particular.

According to the survey, one in three persons with a migrant background looking for a flat (35 per cent) reported racial discrimination.

"Often, a foreign-sounding name is enough to not be invited to a flat viewing. Even openly racist flat advertisements are still part of everyday life", said Bernhard Franke, Acting Head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. "Discrimination in the housing market is prohibited by law. People who are affected should get informed about their legal situation and should address instances of discrimination wherever it is possible", said Franke.

A significant majority of those interviewed (83 per cent) are of the opinion that discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or origin occurs rather frequently when looking for a flat in Germany. The housing market is therefore the area of life where most of those interviewed expect problems due to racial discrimination. Moreover, the respondents were asked about their personal opinion regarding immigrants as potential neighbours. Apparently, reservations about immigrants increase the further a situation reaches into the private sphere. For example, 29 per cent of those surveyed would be concerned or very concerned if a person who immigrated to Germany moved into the neighbouring flat or house. 41 per cent of respondents have reservations about the idea of renting out a flat belonging to the interviewed person to an immigrant.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency considers that several legal loopholes which encourage discrimination should be closed in order to prevent discrimination. The principle of non-discrimination in the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) does not apply, for instance, where a special “relationship of proximity or trust” is entered into, for example by using housing on the same real estate. Moreover, housing associations are allowed to treat people looking for flats differently “with a view to creating and maintaining socially stable population structures and balanced settlement structures as well as balanced economic, social and cultural conditions”. Both exemptions have also been criticised by the UN Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

"The exemptions not only entail the risk of abuse and can offer justifications for racial discrimination, but also, in our view, clearly violate European law and must be abolished", said Franke, referring to a current legal opinion by jurists Prof. Thüsing and Dr. Vianden from Bonn, which was also published on Wednesday, 6 May 2020. Among other things, the legal opinion/report proposes an amendment to the General Act on Equal Treatment (Section 19, Para. 5 General Act on Equal Treatment), in order to make it clear by law that high requirements must be made of a "special relationship of proximity or trust between the parties" if this leads to the protection of discrimination falling short of the protection of privacy.

The survey’s results can be downloaded here. The legal opinion “A legal vacuum? The transposition of the EU Anti-Racism Directive in the area of housing” can be downloaded here .

The results are based on a computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) of 1,041 German-speaking persons over the age of 16 in private households in Germany. The target persons were chosen based on random selection. The survey was conducted by GSM Dr. Jung GmbH and by ARIS Umfrageforschung GmbH between 16 October and 1 November 2019.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency is an independent contact point for persons affected by discrimination. It was established in 2006 when the General Act on Equal Treatment entered into force. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency does public relations work and research on the topic of Discrimination and offers legal initial counselling for people who have been discriminated against on grounds of ethnic origin, religion, ideology, sexual identity, age, disability or gender.