Housing discrimination has been a problem in America for generations.
Adding Protections for Residents: Preventing Housing Discrimination in New York
Housing discrimination has remained an issue in America since African-Americans first gained some rights under the law.
Landlords and homeowners associations across the country have a history of not allowing housing for people of color using numerous excuses to justify their discrimination.
However, a new settlement might change things significantly in New York by not allowing landlords to deny housing to tenants based on their past criminal record.
“New York is putting an end to the immoral and illegal behavior of landlords who have for too long discriminated against residents across this state,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “By upholding the Fair Housing Act of 1968, we are showing the nation and the world what it means to protect basic human rights and how these efforts will help build a better, stronger New York for all.”
In the past, New York landlords could deny housing to potential tenants if they had any type of criminal background such as arrests, without even investigating the severity of the charge and without investigating whether or not the person ever got convicted of the crime.
This development is significant in minority communities because African-Americans and Hispanics are often arrested at a much higher rate than their White counterparts.
Furthermore, New York’s controversial stop and frisk law has resulted in the arrests of many African-American and Hispanic residents for the most minor of infractions, and sometimes for no infraction at all.
The New York City Commission of Human Rights (NYCHR) will identify companies that discriminate and deny housing based on criminal records as a result of this legal settlement.
The NYCHR reached its settlement with PRC Management LLC, a Bronx, N.Y. housing management company that controls 100 buildings across New York City.
The commission said that PRC Management’s policy of denying housing based on criminal records without investigating the alleged crime violated the Fair Housing Act.
Denying housing based on criminal records would disproportionately affect African-Americans and Hispanics.
A Hispanic resident of New York brought the lawsuit against PRC Management because a background check erroneously said that she had a criminal record.
The name of the complainant just so happened to match the name of another person who had a criminal record.
When the NYCHR looked deeper into the complainant’s case, they found a pattern of denying housing to people of color based on criminal records and arrests.
According to TheRoot.com, “This ban on prospective tenants with criminal histories raised a number of red flags. First, it flies in the face of guidelines set out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which states that a blanket policy denying housing to people based on their criminal records likely violates the Fair Housing Act if that policy doesn’t serve a legitimate business interest. Relatedly, Obama-era guidelines pointed out that arrest records are often inaccurate and incomplete, therefore a housing company’s use of such records as a basis for denying someone a place to live could lead to unwarranted denials of admission or eviction.”
The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when buying or renting a home.
The law prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, sex, gender, national origin, color, familial status and disability.
Many things are prohibited because of the Fair Housing Act.
Based on the aforementioned protected classes and according to HUD.gov, it is illegal to refuse to rent or sell housing; refuse to negotiate for housing; otherwise make housing unavailable; set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling; provide a person different housing services or facilities; falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale or rental; make, print or publish any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination; impose different sales prices or rental charges for the sale or rental of a dwelling; use different qualification criteria or applications, or sale or rental standards or procedures, such as income standards, application requirements, application fees, credit analyses, sale or rental approval procedures or other requirements ; evict a tenant or a tenant’s guest; fail or delay performance of maintenance or repairs; limit privileges, services or facilities of a dwelling; assign a person to a particular building or neighborhood or section of a building or neighborhood; for profit, persuade, or try to persuade, homeowners to sell their homes by suggesting that people of a particular protected characteristic are about to move into the neighborhood (blockbusting); refuse to provide or discriminate in terms or conditions of homeowners insurance because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling and/or deny access to or membership in any multiple listing service or real estate brokers’ organization.”
As a result of the settlement between NYCHR and PRC Management, the complainant will receive $55,000 in emotional distress damages and PRC will have to pay $25,000 in civil penalties.
Additionally, Gov. Cuomo introduced a bill in April that will prevent landlords from discriminating against potential tenants because of the source of their income.
Many New York residents claim that landlords are discriminating against residents who use Section 8 vouchers, veterans’ benefits or other non-wage income to pay for rent.
Critics of this practice say that this allows landlords to use “backdoor discrimination” to deny housing to minorities, domestic violence survivors, female-headed homes, veterans, senior citizens and those suffering from disabilities.
“Currently, these landlords are preventing lower income households with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability, veterans’ benefits, and other government subsidies or non-wage income, from accessing safe and affordable housing,” Cuomo’s office said.
“As a result, many low-income New York families are unable to find landlords who will accept their non-wage income and spend more time in shelters or in substandard housing and in concentrated areas of poverty.”
Passage of the anti-housing discrimination bill is still pending at Regal Mag press time.