Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders face housing discrimination - but exactly how much?

WASHINGTON - Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders face a high level of housing discrimination, the federal government has found - perhaps as much as African Americans or Hispanics. But it's almost impossible to pin the level down exactly.

That's because the study includes them in the same category as Asian Americans. And while the authors of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets" acknowledge it would be better to niche this group out more, they say "the sample for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders alone is not large enough to provide a reliable estimate alone so those results are not presented separately."

The Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute, which prepared the report for HUD, acknowledged that the federal Office of Management and Budget in 1997 asked that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders be separated from Asians on federal surveys. The group said it did employ discrimination "testers" from these groups but didn't get enough results for a breakout.

The Census Bureau, in its 2000 count, did break Native Hawaiians and Pacific Island Natives out separately. Indian Country Today tabulated the results of the count of that group and American Indians and Alaska Natives to produce the first true "Native census" last year.

The "Asians and Pacific Islanders" report is phase 2 of the massive project (phase 1 was African Americans and Hispanics). Phase 3, not yet released, will measure housing discrimination against American Indians.

The report measured discrimination for both renting and home purchasing. "The level of consistent adverse treatment against Asian and Pacific Islander renters is 21.5 percent - about the same as the level for African Americans and Hispanics," it said.

For home sales, "Asian and Pacific Islander homebuyers experience consistent adverse treatment 20.4 percent of the time, with systematic discrimination occurring in housing availability, inspections, financing assistance, and agent encouragement. This level of discrimination is comparable to the level experienced by African American homebuyers, and significantly higher than the level of discrimination against Hispanics."

The group measured discrimination using "rigorous paired tests, in which two individuals - one minority and the other white - pose as otherwise identical home seekers, and visit real estate or rental agents to inquire about the availability of advertised housing units."

The report said that compared to Asians and Pacific Islanders as a whole, "there are good reasons to suspect that different ethic sub-groups may face different levels or forms of discrimination. More targeted testing studies would be needed to develop reliable estimates of discrimination" for these groups, which would include Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

HUD has conducted two previous discrimination studies, at intervals of about a dozen years.