Benjamin lauds housing anti-discrimination package

File photoLt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, seen in this October 2021, file photo, welcomes the Sunrise Wind project to the Port of Coeymans.

ALBANY — New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjaman met with members of the state Senate and Assembly to discuss recently passed legislation designed to combat housing discrimination in the state.

Elected officials met virtually Tuesday to discuss the new legislation. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the nine-bill action plan into law last week.

The legislation established the Anti-discrimination in Housing Fund legislation to be used by the Attorney General’s Office for fair housing testing and establishes that all state and local agencies have an obligation to promote fair housing.

The package of bills also increases the required training for real estate professionals related to fair housing laws and housing discrimination and requires standardized intake procedures for real estate professionals. It also creates a dedicated phone line for housing discrimination complaints.

“Collectively, these laws provide a clear path to reduce widespread housing discrimination in New York,” said Elaine Gross, founder and president of ERASE Racism, a regional civil rights organization based in Long Island.

“As we celebrate today’s victory we must recognize that housing discrimination is a manifestation of structural racism that has defined and continues to define our state and nation,” Gross said. “Those structural impediments can only be removed by systemic change that upends the policy and practices that maintain housing discrimination and the inequalities generated.”

The new laws lay out systematic actions and policies which hold individual relators and real estate firms accountable for housing in new ways, Gross said.

The legislation came as a response to Newsday’s “Long Island Divided” investigative report in 2019, which documented housing discrimination in Long Island.

“It’s our jobs, and it’s the attorney general’s job working alongside some of the key non-governmental agencies who will be focusing on this to focus on accountability and the fair testing so that we don’t have to wait for a three-year expose to be able to get to these issues,” Benjaman said.

“And quite frankly, real estate brokers will know that we now have a structural process in place to track and to monitor and highlight whereever there are these injustices,” Benjamin added.

The legislation will help to ensure families get the respect they deserve when they are looking for housing and that they will be able to be presented with the best opportunities without implicit biases getting in the way, Benjamin said.

“What we have done to help ensure that there is fairness in how opportunities are presented to those who want to buy that first home,” Benjamin said. “It’s so very important and I cannot thank the governor enough for understanding that.”

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