Artificial Intelligence Is Making The Housing Crisis Worse

Article by Rebecca Burns: “When Chris Robinson applied to move into a California senior living community five years ago, the property manager ran his name through an automated screening program that reportedly used artificial intelligence to detect “higher-risk renters.” Robinson, then 75, was denied after the program assigned him a low score — one that he later learned was based on a past conviction for littering.

Not only did the crime have little bearing on whether Robinson would be a good tenant, it wasn’t even one that he’d committed. The program had turned up the case of a 33-year-old man with the same name in Texas — where Robinson had never lived. He eventually corrected the error but lost the apartment and his application fee nonetheless, according to a federal class-action lawsuit that moved towards settlement this month. The credit bureau TransUnion, one of the largest actors in the multi-billion-dollar tenant screening industry, agreed to pay $11.5 million to resolve claims that its programs violated fair credit reporting laws.

Landlords are increasingly turning to private equity-backed artificial intelligence (AI) screening programs to help them select tenants, and resulting cases like Robinson’s are just the tip of the iceberg. The prevalence of incorrect, outdated, or misleading information in such reports is increasing costs and barriers to housing, according to a recent report from federal consumer regulators.

Even when screening programs turn up real data, housing and privacy advocates warn that opaque algorithms are enshrining high-tech discrimination in an already unequal housing market — the latest example of how AI can end up amplifying existing biases…(More)”.