May 23, 2024

Housing Discrimination Highlights How AI Could Worsen Housing Issues

report from CT Insider, published May 18, dove deep into housing discrimination, with its findings including that half of open federal housing discrimination investigations in Connecticut are 100 days or older, which violates federal law, and that state housing vouchers are limited in their accessibility across communities. These restrictions harm members of the public in their ability to move to different locations.

Noting that as many as 75% of landlords expect to adopt AI models as part of their screening of potential tenants in the future, State Senator James Maroney this week used the report to highlight the serious flaws already inherent in housing systems and how the widespread adoption of AI technology could worsen these flaws.

“This is a setting rife for further exploitation and problems regarding the use of AI technology,” said Senator Maroney. “I am extremely concerned that unprotected and unregulated use of AI will negatively contribute to the housing disparities and discrimination we already see in our communities, further deepening this problem that is already frustrating and discouraging so many.”

Senator Maroney’s comments come as AI is growing in power and adoption; recently, the housing website Zillow announced it will use a new AI tool to promote equality in housing, specifically designed to meet the requirements of fair housing laws. The company recently published a survey finding that 57% of Americans reported housing discrimination in their lives, a figure as high as 79% for LGBTQ+ individuals, 69% for Black people and 64% for Hispanic and Latino respondents.

Also this month, a report from NextGov found that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is monitoring artificial intelligence applications for their potential to violate provisions within the Fair Housing Act, as research from the organization found that AI, if improperly implemented, can create bias and potential discrimination into tenant selection and housing availability advertisements.

Senator Maroney led the Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 2 this year during the legislative session, though the bill ultimately was not called for a vote in the House and did not become law. The bill, developed extensively with plenty of input from stakeholders in the industry, focused on preventing discrimination and other negative consequences of AI, hoping to foster positive and regulated uses of the technology. Sen. Maroney will continue developing his expertise and hopes to raise similar legislation again in the future.

“This only reinforces my resolve to move forward policies related to AI that will support the future of its uses – it can provide transformative improvements if done correctly, but can have disastrous consequences if rushed or impractically considered,” he said.

Posted by Joe O’Leary