Paired testing bill targeting agent bias passes NY Senate

Lawmakers approve two anti-discrimination measures left out of 2021 legislation

Sen. Anna Kaplan (, iStock)
Sen. Anna Kaplan (, iStock)

The state Senate passed two bills aimed at reducing discriminatory real estate practices.

One would require the state attorney general’s office to do undercover testing to make sure brokers aren’t steering clients to or away from certain neighborhoods based on race, according to Newsday.

The other bill would require brokers and sales agents to report client demographic data to the state. Both measures need approval by the Assembly to become law.

The bills, which weren’t included in a package of laws signed last year to reduce discriminatory housing practices, were spurred by a Newsday inevstigation into Long Island real estate practices. The findings, published in 2019, showed widespread unequal treatment of minority communities and homebuyers.

In many cases, couples posing as buyers were steered to neighborhoods based on race, and in some cases mortgage preapproval was only required for Black to visit a home for sale. The New York Department of State filed cases against 23 agents after the Newsday probe but some have since returned to work.

“Paired covert testing, the kind undertaken by Newsday in their investigation, is the gold standard to ensure that everyone is treated fairly when they’re looking to buy a home, and it’s something that must be done regularly in order to protect the American Dream for all of our neighbors,” said Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Democrat from North Hills, in a statement, according to Newsday.

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Kaplan re-introduced the covert testing bill this year.

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It isn’t clear if the Assembly will vote on the legislation. Nine bills stemming from the Newsday investigation were signed into law last year, including measures to increase fines for housing discrimination, mandate anti-bias traning, standardize procedures for agents and increase brokers’ fees to pay for undercover testing.

Most of the real estate industry condemned the discrimination uncovered by Newday’s investigation, including the New York Association of Realtors, which tweeted that it was “proud to have worked with state lawmakers over the last two years to strengthen fair housing laws.”

Last year, Suffolk County set aside $140,000 and New York state added $250,000 to pay for undercover testing by local nonprofits across New York.

[Newsday] — Harrison Connery