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Opening Acts: June 24, 2021

Civil Rights Bills Pass New York State Legislature

NEW FAIR HOUSING INITIATIVES AWAIT SIGNING BY GOV. ANDREW CUOMO

The New York State Legislature has announced the passage of eight new bills to combat housing discrimination and advance the state’s fair housing goals.

The bills were part of a legislative package passed by the State Senate in February, following the Newsday story Long Island Divided, in which the Fair Housing Justice Center played an integral role. The FHJC and other advocacy organizations worked with key state legislators to ensure these bills made their way through both houses. The Assembly approved the measures in the final days and hours of the 2021 legislative session, which adjourned earlier this month.

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

  • Bill S0945B/A6866 would increase fines imposed by the New York State Department of State upon individual real estate brokers and salespeople who violate the law, and direct half of all fines collected to a new Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund to be used by the New York Attorney General for fair housing testing and other grants to local agencies and non-profits to fight housing discrimination.
  • Bill S2133A/A5363 adds a surcharge to the licensing fee paid by real estate brokers and salespeople for renewals and directs the new revenue to be used by the New York Attorney General’s Office for annual fair housing testing.
  • Bill S1353A/A5428A establishes that all State and local agencies that administer housing and community development programs, and all organizations that receive State housing funds, have an obligation to “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing.”
  • Bill S2132B/A5359 requires additional training for licensing of brokers and salespeople, including curriculum on fair housing laws, the legacy of segregation, and anti-discrimination training, and requires faculty to certify that the courses comply with State regulations.
  • Bill S538B/A4638A adds implicit bias training to the required curriculum for real estate brokers and salespeople seeking to renew their licenses.
  • Bill S2131/A6186 requires standardized client intake procedures for real estate brokers, to help ensure that prospective homebuyers are not treated differently based on their race or other protected characteristics.
  • Bill S2157A/A6355 requires associate real estate brokers serving as real estate officer managers to properly supervise other brokers and real estate salespeople working in the office they manage.
  • Bill S427A/A3112B directs the NYS Division of Human Rights (DHR) to promulgate a statement regarding housing discrimination that shall be appended to any form of housing assistance so that recipients of public subsidies know their rights under source of income discrimination laws.

The bills now head to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo who has until December 31 to sign or veto the new legislation.

“This legislative package will help bring about more compliance with fair housing laws in New York State. Thank you to all of the legislators involved,” said FHJC Policy Coordinator Britny McKenzie. “While we know housing discrimination is deeply rooted in our region, and there is much more work to be done, I am hopeful that this legislation moves us closer to making fair housing a reality for all New Yorkers.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg also praised legislators for their work on these bills.  Freiberg thanked members of the New York Fair Housing Network and the state-wide Source of Income Coalition for their efforts to advocate for these important policy initiatives.  Freiberg added, “We urge Governor Cuomo to further demonstrate his commitment to fair housing and move, with all deliberate speed, to sign these eight bills into law.”  

The FHJC will continue to advocate for more of its policy priorities in the upcoming fall session, including a co-op disclosure bill, a bill adding fair housing protections based on criminal background, a bill authorizing the Attorney General’s office to conduct annual testing, and much more.

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.