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Opening Acts: December 23, 2021

Nine New Fair Housing Laws Signed by Governor Hochul

LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE SPURRED BY LONG ISLAND DIVIDED

Two years after Newsday’s landmark investigative report Long Island Divided uncovered the discriminatory practices of real estate agents and companies on Long Island, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed into law a package of laws designed to combat housing discrimination statewide. The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) served as a consultant on the Newsday story, and was at the forefront of the policy advocacy work to shape the bills and push for their passage.

The nine laws in the package cover a broad range of fair housing issues:

  • Legislation S0945B/A6866 establishes an Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund, a portion of which will be supported by fines collected for violations of anti-discrimination sections of the real property law. This bill increases the fine ceiling from $1,000 to $2,000 and then diverts 50 percent of the revenue from these fines to the Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund. This fund will be available to the Office of the Attorney General for fair housing testing who will allocate grants to various government and non-governmental entities specializing in anti-housing discrimination.
  • Legislation S2133A/A5363 adds a surcharge to licensing and re-licensing fees for real estate brokers and salespersons to be used for statewide fair housing efforts.
  • Legislation S1353A/A5428A requires all state and local agencies administering housing programs or enforcing housing laws that receive state funding to affirmatively further fair housing.
  • Legislation S2132B/A5359 requires additional training for licensing of brokers and salespeople, including curriculum on fair housing laws, the legacy of segregation, historic lack of access to housing opportunities, unequal access to amenities and resources, and anti-bias training.
  • Legislation S538B/A4638A requires implicit bias training for real estate brokers and salespeople as part of their license renewal process.
  • Legislation S979A/A844A requires that coursework on cultural competency be included in the curriculum for real estate broker and salesperson license qualification and renewal.
  • Legislation S2131A/A6186 requires standardized client intake procedures for real estate brokers and allows for a penalty to be imposed on any real estate broker or salesperson who fails to comply. 
  • Legislation S2157A/A6355 requires associate real estate brokers who serve as office mangers to supervise other real estate professionals in their office.
  • Legislation S3437C/A2300C establishes a dedicated telephone line for housing discrimination complaints. 

An additional new law was previously signed by Governor Cuomo in July. Legislation S427A/A3112B directs the NYS Division of Human Rights (DHR) to promulgate a fair housing statement to be given to recipients of public subsidies to inform them of their rights under source of income discrimination laws. 

FHJC Policy Coordinator Britny McKenzie praised the legislators for their work in passing the new laws. “While there is still much work to be done, this legislation moves us closer to making fair housing a living reality for all New Yorkers.” She also thanked members of the New York Fair Housing Network and the state-wide Regional Affordable and Fair Housing Roundtable for their efforts in advocating for these important initiatives.

“The outrageous behavior exposed by Newsday and by FHJC’s continuing investigations demonstrates how ineffective fair housing laws and enforcement have been,” stated FHJC Executive Director Elizabeth Grossman. “These new laws are the beginning of much-needed change in legislative approaches to the ongoing blight of housing discrimination.”

The FHJC will continue to advocate for more of its policy priorities in 2022, including a co-op disclosure bill, a prohibition on housing discrimination based on arrest or conviction, and legislation promoting inclusionary zoning reforms.

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 enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.