Housing Testing Program

History of the Testing Program

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) has been testing for over a decade, working with non-profit housing advocacy organizations to conduct fair housing tests. In 2017, we designed our own in-house civil rights testing program to address discriminatory practices in both housing and employment. We work in partnership with community organizations to identify barriers to housing and monitor compliance with Seattle’s anti-discrimination laws. With the tools provided by the testing program, we can stretch beyond the limits of a complaint-based system and proactively identify and combat discrimination.

Why We Use Testing

Testing is a method used to research in “secret shopper” or undercover scenarios to reveal facts or behaviors that would otherwise be difficult to see. The testing program strives to find and address bias and discriminatory practices in housing and employment in partnership with community organizations and through the work of trained testers. Testing can show subtle discriminatory practices that are difficult to report. With this information, we work with housing providers to provide resources, training, and other help to bring them into compliance with our laws.

Testing Outcomes & Enforcement

In 2022, the testing program conducted 421 fair housing tests. These tests focused on:

  1. The use of criminal records/criminal history under Seattle’s Fair Chance Housing and Eviction Ordinance.
  2. Disability (including policies regarding service animals).
  3. Both areas together.

Using compliance and technical assistance letters, we were able to provide guidance around compliance, as well as opportunities for additional resources and training.


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The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) works to advance civil rights and end barriers to equity. We enforce laws against illegal discrimination in employment, housing, public places, and contracting within Seattle.