State will use undercover testers to combat housing discrimination

Similar measure passed by state Senate awaits Assembly approval

(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
(iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

New York state is taking a cue from a Long Island newspaper and sending undercover testers to root out housing discrimination.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state is setting aside $250,000 for the testing initiative, which will be carried out by nonprofits and happen in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, and in the Central and Western regions of the state.

Newsday — whose “Long Island Divided” investigation shone a light on discriminatory housing practices among Long Island real estate agents — first reported the initiative.

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Starting March 17, real estate agents will also have to complete training on fair housing and lending practices.

The move comes as Albany considers legislation to give the state’s attorney general the power to use such testers. That measure was in a package of 11 bills the state Senate passed earlier this month. A companion piece of legislation would also raise biannual real estate agent licensing fees to pay for the testing. The state Assembly has yet to approve the bills.

Both the legislation and executive action were prompted by a years-long investigation by Newsday, which uncovered widespread racial disparity in the treatment of potential homebuyers. [Newsday] — Georgia Kromrei