How not to discriminate: Long Island Realtors launch fair housing effort

Campaign comes two years after bombshell Newsday investigation

Long Island Board of Realtor's Tessa Hultz (LIRealtor.com, HomeForAllOfUs.org, iStock)
Long Island Board of Realtor's Tessa Hultz (LIRealtor.com, HomeForAllOfUs.org, iStock)

The Long Island Board of Realtors has launched a fair housing awareness campaign, two years after a probe found rampant discrimination by local agents.

The effort, called “Home to All of us: Committed to Delivering Fair Housing Across Long Island,” is basically a website at this point.

The two-page site’s initial focus is source-of-income protections in New York state, though it will eventually cover a range of issues related to fair housing. The Board of Realtors in a press release said the website is meant to provide information for all fair housing stakeholders, including brokers, homeowners, property management firms and tenants.

The site currently provides advice on how to follow fair housing laws and what landlords and brokers can and can’t do when considering clients or tenants.

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The announcement comes more than two years after a bombshell investigation by Newsday found widespread racial discrimination among Long Island real estate professionals. The board did not say why it waited so long to start such a campaign, although some individual brokerages pledged immediate action at the time.

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“We launched this awareness campaign to provide important information and resources to rental providers about New York’s legal source-of-income protection,” said LIBOR CEO Tessa Hultz in a statement. “Newsday’s Long Island Divided created an industry-wide focus on steering occurring in residential home sales, but we want to highlight that fair housing laws apply equally to those looking to rent or lease.”

Hultz added that the campaign will cover other fair housing topics in the future.

Source-of-income discrimination typically involves denying service to prospective tenants bearing rental vouchers. It is illegal for both landlords and also for brokers, even if they are trying to spare clients from applying for apartments whose owners never accept Section 8 tenants.

Similarly, agents cannot deter home shoppers from seeing and bidding on homes in areas based on race, even if they think a sale is unlikely for that reason.

Newday used paired testing, a federally approved method for finding violations of fair housing laws, to probe agents at major firms on Long Island. Over three years, it found frequent race-based steering of homebuyers and that minority buyers were held to higher financial standards than white buyers.

No unfair treatment was found among brokers at Corcoran Group and Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty.

The probe resulted in stepped-up penalties at the state level, including license revocation.