Liability and risk are increasing in the multifamily advertising space. Between the Fair Housing Act and related regulations as well as the deprecation of third party cookies, navigating multifamily advertising can be tricky. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA) protects certain types of individuals and families in the sale, rental, financing, or advertising of housing and seeks to prevent discrimination in the industry. Protected classes under the FHA include race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status, and disability.
What impact does the Fair Housing Act have on advertising?
Advertising that contributes to housing discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Simply put, both the content and the targeting of your advertisements cannot exclude or show a preference with regards to one of the aforementioned protected classes.
The definition of advertising is broadly outlined in the FHA, but has been traditionally received through television, radio, newspapers, and billboards. In the increasingly evolving digital age, there are more platforms to advertise on than ever before. Housing advertisers on web-based platforms are subject to the FHA, and must consider the fact that excluding certain audiences or neighborhoods in an advertising campaign’s location settings may be considered discriminatory. These considerations have to be extended to consider website content, social media posts, online advertising, promotional videos, and more.
How to navigate paid search targeting
There are several restrictions to keep in mind when building and managing PPC (pay-per-click) multifamily marketing campaigns. Serving ads to users by analyzing their age, gender and expressed interests is a common marketing tactic. However, fair housing practices require advertisers to not serve ads solely to a specific demographic – such as females between the ages of 25 and 30. So, PPC advertisers are not able to use much of the demographic data that Google provides.
There is also a limitation on what locations are able to be targeted. Targeting specific zip codes in your location settings is likely to be viewed as discriminatory. Some zip codes may be more concentrated with certain demographic groups, such that including or excluding any one (or two) zip code from a campaign may inadvertently discriminate against a protected class. However targeting a certain mileage around your apartment complex, instead of specific zip codes, is a good way to remain inclusive.