NEW YORK STATE (WRGB) — Cracking down on housing discrimination – that’s what a new state program aims to do as they send out people undercover to expose unlawful sellers or landlords who discriminate against potential buyers or renters.
On Friday, New York State announced a $2.2 million expansion of the state’s Fair Housing Testing Program to root out discrimination in home rental and sale transactions. The pilot testing program was first established in 2021.
As part of the program, it’ll send out “testers” to act as potential renters or home seekers to see if they are treated fairly.
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The program is being administered by the state Homes and Community Renewal’s Fair and Equitable Housing Office, which have finalized contracts with six non-profit housing agencies to conduct these undercover operations in 48 counties.
$445,000 will go to conducting these tests in the Capital Region. Landlords, sellers, and brokers in Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington, and Montgomery Counties will be subject to these tests.
"Housing is an essential human right and we must continue to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that all New Yorkers have a fair and equal opportunity to live in the communities of their choice,” said RuthAnne Visnauskas, New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner.
This program is something that United Tenants of Albany Executive Director Canyon Ryan says is needed because he feels discrimination is a growing problem.
“There’s really no enforcement mechanism when landlords are discriminating against tenants, which is why United Tenants of Albany was able to exist for 50 years because right now we are the only enforcement mechanism. However, we have no legal boundaries, we have no legal jurisdiction, we can’t hold landlords accountable,” said Ryan.
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He says income and racial discrimination are the most common renters and home buyers face.
“You can’t have stable housing if you’re being discriminated against,” he said.
He believes that housing discrimination has increased since the pandemic.
“Because of the eviction moratorium,” Ryan said. “A lot of landlords feel they have been burned by the system.”
“It forces people to be stuck with the same circumstances which have held them down for so long,” Ryan said.
If you feel you’ve been discriminated against in your search for a home, you can file a report with the NYS Attorney General’s Office.
For those who feel they’ve been discriminated against based on their source of income, you can fill out and submit the Source of Income Discrimination Form which you can find on the AG’s website.
If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, predisposing genetic characteristics, military status or disability, fill out and submit a Discrimination Complaint with the AG.