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Opening Acts: March 25, 2022

Family with Housing Voucher Reaches Settlement in Discrimination Complaint

AGREEMENT INCLUDES NEWLY REMODELED APARTMENT, RENT CREDIT

Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that a settlement has been reached in a housing discrimination complaint filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights against real estate company The Pantiga Group, apartment owner Metropolitan Associates, LP, and licensed real estate sales agent Jessy Urena.

The complaint was filed by a woman with two children, who attempted to use a federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher to rent an apartment at a complex in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. After being denied an opportunity to even view an available apartment, she contacted the FHJC.

An FHJC undercover testing investigation corroborated the woman’s allegation. Sales agent Urena misstated the law to an FHJC tester by saying that the cooperative building where the apartment was located “might be exempt” from taking vouchers, and encouraged a tester with a voucher to consider apartments elsewhere.

As part of the settlement, the complainant and her children will be moving into a newly renovated 2-bedroom apartment in the Riverdale complex using a Section 8 voucher, and be provided a $20,000 credit to be applied to her share of the rent. Future rent will be capped at Section 8 program levels so that the family may continue to rent the apartment with their voucher long term. Respondent Pantiga Group will also pay $65,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

Pantiga Group also agreed to take certain actions to prevent future discrimination, including:

  • Providing fair housing training for all licensed sales brokers and agents at Pantiga Realty;
  • Adopting a written anti-discrimination policy informing employees and agents that lawful source of income (including a Section 8 voucher) is a protected class under New York State Human Rights Law;
  • Including on rental applications and on Pantiga Group’s website a non-discrimination statement listing all seventeen protected characteristics under Federal, State, and City fair housing laws; and
  • Adding to Pantiga Group’s homepage a statement that it welcomes working with renters with housing vouchers or rental subsidies.

“Source of income discrimination has been illegal in New York City since 2008 and statewide since 2019. It is long past time for housing providers and real estate companies to comply with these laws.” stated FHJC Executive Director Elizabeth Grossman. “FHJC will continue to investigate source of income discrimination to ensure that tenants who use vouchers are free from discrimination.”

“A family that was openly denied housing due to their rental voucher will now have stable and secure housing for years to come,” added FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali. “This case illustrates how fair housing laws can be used to open doors to housing opportunities for renters with vouchers.”

The complainant is represented by Diane L. Houk with the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel 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).