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Opening Acts: June 25, 2020

No Choice for Housing Choice Voucher Holder

FHJC INVESTIGATION CONFIRMS SOURCE OF INCOME DISCRIMINATION AT RIVERDALE CO-OP

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that J.R., a woman with two children who attempted to use a federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to rent an apartment at a housing cooperative in the Bronx, filed a discrimination complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR). J.R. alleges that, in late 2019, she was denied an opportunity to rent or even view an available apartment at the Riverdale Park Cooperative located at 5444 Arlington Ave. An agent told J.R., “This is a co-op building and owners are not working with any programs at the moment.” The complaint names, as respondents, Pantiga Group Inc. (a licensed real estate company); Pantiga sales agent Jessy Urena (real estate licensee); Riverdale Park Corporation, Samson Management LLC; Riverdale 77 Corporation; and the 350 Riverdale Corporation

In December 2019, J.R. contacted the FHJC to file a housing discrimination complaint. In response to her complaint, the FHJC conducted an undercover testing investigation which yielded evidence that Pantiga sales agent Urena, acting on behalf of the managers, owners, and co-op, applied an income requirement that would effectively preclude Section 8 voucher holders from renting apartments at the 268-unit complex even when voucher amounts cover the amount of rent being requested. The agent further misrepresented to an FHJC tester that since the building was a co-op, it “might be exempt” from taking vouchers.    

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated: “Source of income discrimination has been illegal in the City of New York since 2008 and in New York State since April 2019. With these protections, all housing providers, including co-ops, need to ensure that their tenant selection policies and practices do not discriminate against individuals and families using rental subsidies.”  

The complainant is represented by Diane L. Houk with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. The mission of the Fair Housing Justice Center (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.

FHJC’s investigation in this case was supported with funding from a Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI) grant received from the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).