Opening Acts: April 3, 2019

New York State Outlaws Source of Income Discrimination

TENANTS WITH RENTAL SUBSIDIES PROTECTED BY CIVIL RIGHTS LAW

The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced a major policy victory for housing and civil rights advocates this past weekend when the New York State legislature passed the Lawful Source of Income Anti-Discrimination Act of 2019 as part of the State budget bill. After years of advocacy, this legislation, supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, finally makes it illegal to discriminate against households based on their source of income or their use of a rental subsidy. The new law adds source of income as a protected characteristic to the State Human Rights Law so that there will be uniform protection statewide and only owner-occupied dwellings of two units or less would be exempted from coverage.

The Statewide Source of Income Coalition (#BanIncomeBiasNY), a broad-based coalition organized by the FHJC, ERASE RacismEnterprise Community Partners, Inc. (ECP) and the New York Housing Conference, worked diligently to pass the new law. The coalition was successful, in part, because it brought together over 110 organizations from throughout the state to advocate for lower income families, people with disabilities, veterans, domestic violence survivors, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations who face pervasive discrimination in the housing market based on their sources of income or their use of rental subsidies.

For tenants with income from social security, alimony, foster care subsidies, veterans benefits, or other forms of public assistance, the new law requires that this income be treated the same as income from employment. Also, households qualified for a subsidy program such as a Section 8 housing voucher, an Olmstead subsidy, or any type of rental subsidy cannot be turned away merely because the subsidy will pay for all or part of the rent.

The Statewide Source of Income Coalition issued the following statement, “No New Yorker with the means to pay rent should be denied the opportunity to choose where they live. Thanks to the leadership of and collaboration between Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley, and Senator Kevin Parker, that dream will become reality for every individual and family in our state. We also thank Assembly members Latoya Joyner and David Weprin for their support and commitment to this cause. This is an incredible victory that will have an immediate positive impact for some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

ERASE Racism President V. Elaine Gross stated, “Enactment of this legislation represents a historic protection for low-income New Yorkers. Discrimination based on race is already illegal, but many black and brown residents are denied housing based on their source of income. ERASE Racism applauds the Governor and legislators for enactment of this amendment and thanks all of the coalition members.”

Lorraine Collins, Director Public Policy and External Affairs for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. added, “Enterprise is honored to have been part of an advocacy effort that has been a decade in the making here in New York State. Leading a statewide coalition illustrated the impact that we can have on vulnerable populations when we work together. We look forward to our continued work with partners around enforcement efforts.”

Rachel Fee, Executive Director of the New York Housing Conference said, “As a statewide affordable housing policy organization, we are extremely proud of the progress made together with our partners in fair housing. There is so much more we can accomplish working together to expand housing opportunities for all New Yorkers.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “The passage seeks to protect some of the most marginalized and vulnerable New Yorkers from housing discrimination.” But Freiberg cautioned, “Passing the law is just the first step. Now advocates must ensure that the law is vigorously enforced and the fair housing rights of publicly assisted households and households with rental subsidies are scrupulously protected.”

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