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Finding a place to live in Vancouver can be hard for many reasons. Plenty of other people are looking to live in the hip, West Coast city. Prices are sky high.

And if you're gay or a single parent trying to rent a unit, you'll likely face discrimination according to a new study conducted by a team of social scientists at the University of British Columbia.



Same-sex male couples are nearly 25 per cent more likely to be rejected than heterosexual couples, the findings reveal. Single parents (dads and moms) also face a high level of discrimination, being rejected 15 per cent more often.

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The researchers sent e-mails to about 1,700 landlords, from one of five imaginary tenants: a heterosexual couple, a lesbian couple, a male homosexual couple, a single father with a child or a single mother with a child.

The team kept track of responses and categorized them as positive (a message saying the rental was still available), negative (the rental was taken), no response or a request for more information.

Most responses from landlords were vague, giving the researchers little to go on for why the tenant was rejected. They did, however, receive a few responses that indicated single parents are not seen as desirable tenants because of the presence of the child.

"Sorry Kate, we're only looking for a single or married couple right now," read one reply.

This is a serious problem, the researchers say, since nearly half (46.1 per cent) of single parents in Canada live in rentals.

Gay couples were rejected less in areas that were known to house other gay couples, such as Vancouver's West Side and downtown area. Lesbian couples received pretty much the same treatment as heterosexual couples, regardless of location.

Although wary to propose an explanation for the discrimination, the researchers did suggest it is likely that many landlords are making decisions based on financial stereotypes or prejudiced beliefs.

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"New family households made up of same-sex partners and single parents may be seen as morally suspect and tainted outright or threatening," write the authors.

The study, published in the August issue of the journal Social Problems, also points out that this problem is likely not unique to Vancouver.

"Vancouver has a reputation for tolerance of diversity in North America and a vibrant gay community," said lead author Nathanael Lauster , a professor in UBC's Dept. of Sociology. "This means that housing discrimination levels may even be higher in other cities."

Have you ever been discriminated against when trying to rent an apartment?

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