The fallout from a bombshell investigation into fair housing practices on Long Island is still reverberating four years later, as the New York attorney general is the latest to take action on housing discrimination.
New York AG Letitia James is launching a program to fund fair housing testers across the state, Newsday reported. Nonprofit groups and local government agencies will be able to tap grants of up to $250,000 from a $3 million pot. Grantees will provide advice and services to homebuyers, as well as pay and train testers.
The funding for the program comes from license fees added under a change to state law in 2021, which itself came from Newsday’s 2019 investigation into housing bias on Long Island. That investigation found widespread racial discrimination by Long Island real estate professionals, utilizing paired testing to uncover the fair housing violations.
The New York Department of State started collecting a $30 surcharge from brokers and $10 surcharge from agents when issuing or renewing licenses, which goes into an anti-discrimination fund. More than $22,000 in the fund also came from penalties against real estate professionals who allegedly committed housing discrimination.
“Discriminating against people because of race is not just shameful — it is illegal,” James said in a statement.
An investigation on Long Island may have been the impetus for the program, but the region is actually a secondary priority for the AG’s office. The top priority for the funding is the Capital Region and the northeast part of the state, as they lack local nonprofits and government agencies dedicated to fair housing programs.
If nonprofits or agencies turn up fair housing violations by real estate companies or agents, the AG’s office can take civil action against the alleged perpetrators.
This year, Gov. Kathy Hochul launched a fair housing testing program operated through the Division of Homes and Community Renewal. That $2.2 million program funds six nonprofits to train undercover testers to serve as prospective homebuyers or renters.
— Holden Walter-Warner