INDIANAPOLIS — The Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana is looking for secret shoppers to test the Indiana housing market.
While the nonprofit investigates specific claims of discrimination, it also collects data about mortgage lending and available rentals using real people. The data helps ensure that the housing laws are followed.
Executive Director Amy Nelson said the trained secret shoppers go into different situations asking the same questions any of us would ask a company representative.
"How much is the rent? What's the deposit? What are the application requirements?" Nelson said.
The shoppers are paid stipends, and the amount can range from $50 to a couple hundred dollars.
"Pay really varies by test type. Our more time intensive mortgage and lending insurance type tests, those pay a lot more than our tests that might be based upon rental transactions," Nelson said.
She added that for their group to get involved, it has to be a situation where somebody is being discriminated against solely due to their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or presence of minor children in the home.
Issues, Nelson said, are more commonly found in the rental market.
"What we see in our testing practices on the rental market is what we call falsely denying availability. So, a housing provider saying that, 'Oh my gosh, I don't have anything available,' when in fact they do," Nelson said.
For discrimination cases without an identified victim, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana goes into the situation looking to rectify what is uncovered.
That could be demanding a lender to open up a bank branch in a neighborhood of color.
"We might require them to set aside money for downpayment assistance programs there," Nelson added.
Nelson said they sometimes file in the administrative or court process, entering into 2-, 3-, or 5-year type agreements, monitored by the court if it's in the court or Biden administrative agency to ensure compliance.
To avoid application discrimination, Nelson suggests taking the first applicant that qualifies and meets all of the qualifications.
"If you start spreading them out, and picking and choosing which one you want, there is always the opportunity for discrimination or bias to come into that. And that's where it can be problematic."