Blacks already feeling the pinch from a housing shortage in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina are facing racial discrimination in their search for rental property, a survey by housing advocates found.

The survey sent black and white "testers" — paired by matching incomes, careers, family types and rental histories — to inquire about openings at 40 rental properties in metropolitan New Orleans.

The findings, released Tuesday by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, found blacks encountered "less favorable treatment" than their white counterparts in 57.5 percent of those tests.

In one example, an agent told the black tester who responded to an apartment ad on Jan. 22 that only one unit was available, and not until February. The same agent told the white tester later that day that two units would available Feb. 1 and mentioned two other units.

Tammy Esponge, association executive for the Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans, she has no reason to believe housing discrimination is more acute in New Orleans than in other parts of the country.

"There's discrimination all the time out there — not just in the apartment market. I'm talking all over the place," she said. "But we are highly in support of our members enforcing the fair housing laws."

She said her group offers annual fair housing training seminars for its members, which include 34 owners and managers of 20,000 rental units in southeast Louisiana.

James Perry, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, said the group intends to sue several landlords.

"At a time when people need housing desperately, we really can't stand to have discrimination occurring," Perry said.