The Commission tests lenders, employers, public accommodations, and housing providers, as a way to determine the nature and extent of discrimination in Iowa. Tests are conducted as part of federally-funded testing projects, as well as in response to calls from individuals. In some cases, the audio and video recordings of the tests become important evidence for further investigation and resolution of an incident of alleged discrimination.
An example of a test conducted in response to a call from a citizen occurred earlier this year. The Davenport Human Rights Commission received several calls from individuals complaining about a landlord who would not rent his property to African Americans. The Davenport Commission called ICRC and requested that we conduct a test of this landlord.
We agreed to conduct an on-site race test of this landlord. A tester called the landlord to schedule an appointment to meet with the landlord and view the property. During the call, the landlord asked the tester what his race was. When the tester responded, "African American," the landlord stated, "Well, I'm sorry but I can't accept any black people." The landlord went on to say, "And I have been having problems with black people. And my lawyer told me not to rent to black people....Because the tenants I had caused me a lot of trouble...."
Because of the landlord's blatant comments on race, which were tape recorded, it was not necessary to conduct the on-site test. Several of the citizens who had alerted the Davenport Commission to the situation filed complaints against this landlord. The test results were included in their files as part of the investigation.
During FY 97, we conducted 582 tests, found 116 possible violations of the law, and filed 12 Commissioner complaints.
Mortgage Lending Testing Grant
In 1995 the Commission received a HUD grant for an 18-month study of mortgage lending practices in Iowa's eight largest communities. The study included six stages of information gathering and research, including on-site race and national origin, pre-application tests of mortgage lenders. At the completion of the study, public meetings were held in the eight communities to review and discuss the information gained.