N.Y. Lawmakers Call For Plan For Stiffer Penalties For Housing Discrimination

Jennifer McLogan

January 27, 2021

Originally published in CBS 2 New York on January 27, 2021.

“The way things have been done for decades has to change,” State Senator Kevin Thomas said.

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Wednesday the New York State Senate called for stiffer penalties for housing discrimination.

This followed an undercover investigation on Long Island that revealed efforts to keep minorities away from white neighborhoods. As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, many on Long Island struggle through rampant discrimination when buying a new home.

“Home ownership for many is a benchmark to achieving the American dream,” said St. Sen. Kevin Thomas.

Thomas shared Albany’s new highly anticipated report demanding the overhaul of real estate practices. This followed months of hearings and probes into steering and redlining, sparked by a Newsday investigation.

“The way things have been done for decades has to change,” Thomas said.

Over three years, Newsday sent white, Black and Hispanic testers undercover to meet with real estate agents. Nearly half of the time minorities were directed away from white neighborhoods, and many were required to have preapproved mortgages.

More: Long Island Lawmakers Unveil Plan To Fight Rampant Housing Discrimination After Explosive Investigation

“Everyone should be free to buy a home in any part in Nassau County they want,” one man said.

“Within a couple of days, I received the first hate letter stating that because of the color of my skin, I did not belong in that neighborhood,” one woman said.

The report recommends continuing to perform undercover testing of realtors, using broker and agent fees to pay for the testing, double the fines for violations, additional hours of training on fair housing and bias.

“Implicit bias education and we also added enforcement,” said St. Sen. Anna Kaplan, who is sponsoring some of the bills. “This is not a victimless crime. This is something that affects our families, our friends, people in our community.”

The senators plan to approve a whole host of housing and real estate bills in the next month, and work with the Assembly to change state housing laws.

The New York State Association of Realtors says moving forward, it will cooperate with the state to be part of this housing solution.