New York State is looking out for all its tenants and homeowners through a new initiative that will keep an eye on home sellers and landlords and hold them accountable for their actions.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday the launch of the Fair Housing Enforcement Program, which was created to uncover discrimination in rental and home sale transactions.
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Along with the initiative, Cuomo also added that he has directed the Division of Human Rights and the Department of State to recommend new guidelines that will strengthen New York State’s housing enforcement efforts.
“The simple, painful truth is that for all our progress in creating a better society, discrimination is still alive and well in America today. We will not stand for it in New York,” Cuomo said. “These actions will hold housing providers accountable — we will not hesitate to crack down on those who break the law."
Through the new enforcement program, the state’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) will send out trained fair housing “testers" with diverse racial, gender, and economic backgrounds, who also represent parents and persons with disabilities. The “testers” will act like prospective renters or homebuyers and will see if there are any cases of discriminatory bias from sellers or landlords.
The undercover individuals will work together in teams and will present similar incomes and career profiles to real estate agents and owners. All the treatment the testers receive will then be documented and the results will be analyzed.
In the cases that possible discrimination is uncovered, the state will investigate and prosecute.
The new initiative will also include investigations of real estate agents, owners and landlords — who are all prohibited from discriminating in the rental or sale of housing in the state.
Under the Federal Fair Housing Act and New York’s Human Rights Law, it is illegal to discriminate in the sale, rental, or leasing of housing based on disability, race, color, national origin, or familial status.
“Denying access to housing, whether it is through discrimination or harassment driven by greed, is unconscionable and illegal,” said James S. Rubin, HCR commissioner. “To make it crystal clear: discriminatory practices are always abhorrent and will be investigated and prosecuted.”
The state will also work to advise the real estate industry of the new regulations and create a detailed guideline letting real estate brokers of their obligations under the law.
During Sunday’s announcement of the new initiative, Cuomo also added that the state's Division of Human Rights had recently reached settlement on 123 cases filed in 2015 alleging housing discrimination.
Of those cases, 41 complaints were resolved — 17 from New York City — based on discrimination of race, color or national origin. DHR also resolved 91 housing discrimination complaints — 34 cases from New York City — filed by people with disabilities.
Lastly, the state resolved 26 complaints — 11 from New York City — based on discrimination against families with children and pregnant women.
“We will do everything we can to root out discrimination where it shows its ugly presence in order to create stronger and more inclusive communities statewide,” Cuomo said.