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"Strong evidence" of discrimination against Muslims seeking house on rent in Delhi: Helsinki Institute study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study by a top Helsinki-based institute has found “strong evidence of discrimination against Muslim applicants” seeking to take house on rent in the National Capital Region of Delhi. The study is based, to quote, “A web-based audit of the market for rental properties offered directly by owners/landlords using a sample of 170 rental properties in the Delhi region.”
Pointing towards the discrimination of Muslims, the study says, “Where the probability that a landlord contacts an upper-caste applicant is 0.35, this is only 0.22 for a Muslim applicant.”
“This points to a significant disadvantage faced by Muslim applicants relative to upper-caste Hindus, who must expend significantly more effort to find housing”, the paper says, noting, however, that OBCs or Dalits do not face such strong discrimination.
“We fail to find statistically significant evidence of bias against Scheduled Castes (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBC)”, the authors of the study say, adding, “Muslims must expend considerably greater time and effort, including search time, to have access to a similar-sized pool of potential rental properties as upper castes.”
However, the study says, “The probability that a landlord contacts an OBC applicant is 0.30, which is lower than the 0.35 for an upper caste applicant”, adding, “The difference of 0.05 is not statistically significant at conventional levels. The corresponding difference between upper castes and Dalits is a trivial 0.01.”
Published as a United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER), paper, and titled “For whom does the phone (not) ring? Discrimination in the rental housing market in Delhi, India”, the authors, Saugato Datta and Vikram Pathania (May 2016), say, “A Muslim applicant must respond to 45.5 listings to receive 10 landlord callbacks, while an upper caste applicant must respond to only 28.6 listings to receive the same number.”
“As a rule, applicants to 1-bedroom properties tend to be single men or women. Since all our applicants are male, this implies that the housing rental market is especially hostile to single Muslim men”, the paper says, adding, “Also, Muslim landlords are no more likely to respond to Muslim applicants.”
The survey, say the authors, was carried out “entirely remotely”, exploiting “one of India’s most popular online housing search platforms” over a roughly two-month period in the summer of 2015. The landlords in the study were seeking tenants for apartments or houses in Delhi, and its two largest contiguous suburbs, Gurgaon and in NOIDA.
In all, the results are based on landlord responses to 681 unique applicants to 170 apartments, the authors say, adding, a large majority of listings (71 per cent) were for two- or three-bedroom apartments, with 20 per cent were for one-bedroom properties, and 9 and had four bedrooms.
The distribution of properties differed somewhat between the city and suburbs, with fewer one-bedroom flats in the suburbs.
City flats were about one-and-a-half times more expensive per square foot (Rs. 28.5 psf compared with Rs. 18.1 psf in Gurgaon or NOIDA), and were smaller on average (at a little over 1100 sf, compared with an ample 1600+ sf in the suburbs).
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