NYC invests $22M in tenant protection programs to combat income-based discrimination

April 21, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The NYC Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) is addressing source-of-income discrimination, an illegal practice that denies people access to safe and affordable housing in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

Examples of such discrimination include refusing vouchers, accepting only specific types of vouchers, or delaying repairs for tenants based on their voucher status.

The Commission has been working with realtors to implement innovative policies in settlements to put an end to discriminatory patterns. Previous settlements have mandated “set-asides,” reserving a percentage of units specifically for tenants with vouchers. Recently, broker incentive programs have been included in Commission-mediated settlements, providing monetary bonuses to brokerages that work with and place the highest number of tenants with public sources of income in homes.

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Notable settlements featuring broker incentive programs include Nooklyn NYC LLC, penalized for discriminating against an applicant with a HASA voucher, and Bruma Realty, which discriminated against an applicant due to her FHEPS voucher. These settlements not only provide financial compensation for those who have experienced discrimination, but also enact creative policies aimed at preventing future discrimination.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, “Source of income discrimination is not only unethical, it’s illegal.” He highlighted the city’s investment of over $22 million in tenant protection programs and praised the Commission’s efforts to combat discrimination.

Annabel Palma, Commissioner and Chair of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, emphasized that housing is a human right and that the Commission is dedicated to translating that concept into policy and practice.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights enforces the NYCHRL, one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws in the nation, covering 27 protected classes in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Source of income discrimination is more prevalent in areas with a high demand for rental housing and limited supply, leading landlords to be more selective in choosing tenants. It disproportionately affects low-income families, people with disabilities, and minority groups who are more likely to rely on housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance. Studies have shown that source of income discrimination can result in increased housing instability and homelessness, as well as perpetuate racial and economic segregation.

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