The New York State Senate Wednesday issued a 97-page report that detailed the findings of a years-long investigation into housing discrimination within the state. The report detailed how widespread discrimination is in the state and made a number of legislative and policy recommendations.
“Our report details the very troubling and apparently widespread discriminatory practices that occurred on Long Island, and undoubtedly in other parts of the state, along with our recommendations on what must be done to replace New York’s patchwork, inadequate approach to this problem with a comprehensive statewide strategy,” Senator Brian Kavanagh, the chair of the housing, construction and community development committee, and one of the report’s authors, said in a statement.
The report, which found “the current insufficient enforcement of fair housing laws was apparent” throughout the investigation, was initially spurred by the groundbreaking Long Island Divided report by Newsday.
Agents at the center of the Newsday report were accused of steering undercover investigators to neighborhoods that matched their own race or ethnicity and often subjected minority investigators to more restrictive conditions prior to viewing properties.
In the wake of that report, the State Senate began its own investigative research, which included “witness testimony, subpoenaed documents, policy meetings, and committee research,” according to the report.
The findings of the report concluded that segregation doesn’t happen by chance but is rather the “direct result of the coordinated actions of government and private industry.”
“The State and all stakeholders in the housing industry must come together and commit ourselves to affirmatively further fair housing practices, for the benefit of all New Yorkers,” Kavanagh said.
“The recommendations contained in this report will enable us to ensure effective implementation and compliance with New York State’s fair housing laws and hopefully usher in a new era of transparency and accountability in our housing industry for the benefit of prospective homebuyers and renters, and all of our communities.”
The report first recommends that New York develops a well-resourced, proactive and better coordinated fair housing strategy. The Fair Housing Act, a national law passed as part of the landmark Civil Rights Act, makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin in the renting or selling of housing.
But the report suggests the state reinforce the goals of the Fair Housing Act with more initiatives, in an effort to “eradicate residential segregation.”
The report calls on the state to take a more proactive approach into investigating fair housing laws through testing, as well as increases funding to support fair housing education and efforts and collect demographic data.
Recommendations made in the report could have an effect on real estate licensing in the state. The report recommends the training for agents and brokers is enhanced and also calls for the rescinding of a rule requiring classes be recorded.
The report also calls for harsher penalties for violators of the Fair Housing Act and puts the onus on businesses to help further fair housing by opening more brokerage offices in communities of color and creating a more diverse real estate sales force.
Of the 12 companies whose agents were tested by Newday, none had an office located in one of the eight predominately minority communities on Long Island. The companies had a combined 218 branches across Nassau and Suffolk counties.