Opening Acts: November 20, 2019

The Cost of Renting While Black


Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and four African American testers filed a lawsuit in federal district court (EDNY) alleging that the owners, employees, and agents of two rental buildings in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn are discriminating against African American renters.    According to 2010 Census information, the population in the predominantly white Borough Park neighborhood is less than 1% African American.  The defendants named in the lawsuit include 1125 63rd Street, LLC; 1137 63rd Street, LLC; Kostas Paxis; Mary Paxis; and Paul Paxis

An investigation conducted by the FHJC disclosed that African American and white testers who were sent to two adjacent 38-unit rental buildings located at 1125 and 1137 63rd Street in Borough Park were treated differently based on race. The testers posed as prospective renters with similar socio-economic characteristics so that the primary difference between them was race.  Four teams of Black and white testers were sent to the apartment buildings and, while all the testers were told about available apartments, the African American testers were consistently quoted higher rents ranging from $50 to $150 more per month than their white counterparts.  On two tests, Black testers were asked questions about their income and history of evictions and their white counterparts were not.  Also, agents made outright statements to some white testers about a preference for renting to people from Europe.    

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “Quoting higher rents to African American renters than white renters for the same apartments or imposing a surcharge based on race violates fair housing laws.  Whether the higher rents are quoted to dissuade African American applicants from applying or the lower rents are offered to incentivize white applicants to apply, the practice is discriminatory.       Sadly, the practice of quoting different rents based on race is not all that uncommon in some parts of New York City.”  Freiberg added, “Testing is the only way to find out if rental housing providers are providing the same terms and conditions, treatment, and access to housing.” 

The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit are seeking damages and injunctive relief that would bring the defendants into compliance with fair housing laws and ensure non-discrimination in the future. The plaintiffs are represented by Mariann Meier Wang and Daniel Mullkoff of Cuti Heck Wang LLP

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).

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.