The City Council agreed today to look at setting up a sort of "secret shopper" that would pair white and minority testers to see what happens when they apply for the same apartment.
City Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), who co-sponsored the proposal, pointed to a recent study run in part by Suffolk University, that found Black applicants for apartments in Boston faced discrimination most of the time.
One of his co-sponsors, Lydia Edwards (North End, Charlestown, East Boston), who has volunteered as a tester for a Suffolk University program, said brokers have "probably been the biggest driver of discrimination in our city, if not the nation."
Edwards said a similar program in Seattle led to charges against landlords there and that a housing testing program here would lead to uncovering "who's actually hurting people, who's actually discriminating against people." She said that when coupled with a proposal she is working on with the administration to include housing equity in the city zoning code, the measure could help make Boston a leader in fighting housing discrimination.
Separately, Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George (at large), Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton) and Edwards called for a hearing on even worse discrimination found against people seeking apartments with housing vouchers.