Los Angeles subsidised housing scoring system racial bias

Occurred: February 2023 

White people in the Los Angeles area received higher scores from system that guided who receives priority for housing assistance, according to an investigation by The Markup. The findings called into question the accuracy and fairness of the system and similar systems.

The Markup analysis of 130,000 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority's (LAHSA) Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI‑SPDAT) surveys found that White people, notably those under 25, received scores considered 'high acuity' - or most in need - more often than Black people, a gap which persisted year over year. 

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) had already planned to stop using the tool after a research team partnering with the agency found the tool had 'the potential to advantage certain racial groups over others.' 

In 2019, the LAHSA had found that Black people tended to receive lower vulnerability scores despite their overrepresentation in Los Angeles’s unhoused population, something the LAHSA attributed to 'structural racism, discrimination, and implicit bias'. 

Operator: Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA)
Developer: County of Los Angeles Public Health

Country: USA

Sector: Govt - housing

Purpose: Assess subsidised permanent housing elgibility

Technology: Scoring algorithm
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity

Transparency: Governance; Complaints/appeals

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: October 2023