Opening Acts: February 21, 2018

Another Fair Housing Lawsuit Against Goldfarb Properties

FHJC DOCUMENTS DISCRIMINATION BASED ON DISABILITY AND SOURCE OF INCOME

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Alfred Spooner, a 67-year-old man with disabilities, filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) alleging that Goldfarb Properties, Inc., and two of its building owners, Deegan Two Company and Cedar Two Company, LLC, discriminate against prospective tenants based on disability and source of income. Goldfarb Properties is the managing agent of more than 6,000 apartments throughout New York City and its surrounding suburbs.

In 2015, Mr. Spooner was diagnosed with cancer and, as a result of his subsequent medical treatment, lost his job and his apartment in New York City. In 2017, Mr. Spooner was approved for an Olmstead Housing Subsidy (OHS), a state-funded housing subsidy for low-income persons with disabilities who have been placed in a nursing home or have become homeless because of their disabilities, but who can live in the community. Under this program, OHS recipients pay no more than 30% of their income toward the rent and the OHS makes a direct payment to the landlord for the remainder of the rent.

Mr. Spooner applied in 2017 for two apartments in buildings managed by Goldfarb Properties that were within his allowed rent range and was rejected. According to the Complaint filed today, Goldfarb rejected Mr. Spooner’s application because it requires an annual income of at least 43 times the monthly rent. When Mr. Spooner’s housing specialist spoke with Goldfarb employees and described how Goldfarb’s policy effectively disqualified the use of OHS rental subsidies, the employees explained that the income requirement could not be waived. As a result, Mr. Spooner became homeless and lived in shelters for more than six months. “It was a horrible experience,” said Mr. Spooner. “This whole ordeal caused an enormous amount of stress, as well as a loss of my sense of self-respect.”

Mr. Spooner contacted the FHJC, and an FHJC testing investigation confirmed that Goldfarb employees repeatedly refused to consider prospective tenants with vouchers and rental subsidies because of Goldfarb’s minimum annual income requirement. Goldfarb’s income requirement categorically disqualifies recipients of rental subsidies such as OHS, all of whom are people with disabilities, from renting in the Defendants’ buildings. The Complaint alleges that the income requirement also rules out most people with Section 8 housing vouchers. The complaint alleges violations of both the federal Fair Housing Act and the New York City Human Rights Law.

This is not the first time that housing discrimination complaints have been filed against Goldfarb. The FHJC conducted testing of Goldfarb in response to a complaint from a man with a HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) rental subsidy that led to the filing of a lawsuit by Housing Works in 2015. While that case was settled with an agreement by Goldfarb Properties not to discriminate based on lawful source of income, testing conducted by FHJC since then shows that Goldfarb has increased it minimum income requirements to effectively preclude HASA clients. Currently, the New York City Human Rights Commission is investigating a complaint alleging source of income discrimination against Goldfarb.

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “This major housing provider has repeatedly failed to comply with fair housing laws. Make no mistake, by enforcing policies that violate fair housing laws and effectively excluding some of the most vulnerable populations with rental subsidies, this landlord is directly contributing to homelessness in New York City.” Freiberg added, “It is important to note that, while State of New York administers several rental subsidy programs, source of income discrimination is not prohibited under the State Human Rights Law and subsidy holders who encounter this type of discrimination have no legal recourse in many parts of the State. Eligible households need to be able to use these rental subsidies in the private market to secure decent, safe, affordable, and healthy places to live without having to endure the indignity of discrimination, prolonged homelessness, and extreme hardship.”

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to change the defendants’ discriminatory housing policies and practices, as well as damages and attorney’s fees. The plaintiffs are represented by Diane L. Houk and David Berman of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP.

The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.