The New York state Senate is set to approve a series of bills aimed at tackling the pervasive problem of housing discrimination.
The legislative measures include stiffer penalties for violating fair housing laws, more hours of implicit bias training for real estate agents and an undercover testing program, Newsday reported.
The move was prompted by Newsday’s three-year investigation, “Long Island Divided,” which found widespread housing discrimination among real estate agents on the island. The publication found that brokers engaged in discriminatory behavior, such as steering non-white home shoppers to certain neighborhoods or requiring minority buyers — but not white ones — to get mortgage pre-approvals to see listings.
The Senate followed with its own probe, which culminated in a 97-page report last month outlining steps the industry should take — including undercover testing, increasing licensing fees for agents and raising penalties for Fair Housing Act violations — to more effectively combat discrimination. The legislation set to pass on Monday incorporates some of those recommendations.
There are laws on the books already to address housing discrimination, but those largely rely on self-monitoring. Measures like paired testing — in which people of different ethnic backgrounds and similar financial profiles pose as home shoppers to see if agents are complying with fair housing laws — are intended to hold the real estate industry accountable, according to the bill’s sponsor.
“At the hearings, we heard from a lot of brokers and it became obvious some of them were not aware of what they were doing [wrong],” said Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Democrat representing North Hempstead. “This [bill] will allow us to see how we are progressing.”
Once approved by the Senate, the bills will be sent to the Assembly for consideration. [Newsday] — Akiko Matsuda