Senate Majority Advances Housing Discrimination Legislative Package
Real Estate In-Depth | February 8, 2021
ALBANY—The leadership of the State Senate Democratic Majority announced on Feb. 8 it will advance major legislation to continue addressing housing discrimination across New York State. The legislative package was created following two public hearings on housing discrimination that included 25 subpoenas. The package of bills is also in response to legislative suggestions outlined in the Senate Majority’s 97-page investigative report on fair housing and discrimination on Long Island released on Jan. 27, 2021 in response to investigative reports published in Newsday in late 2019.
HGAR Government Affairs Director Phil Weiden reported on Feb. 11 that all 11 bills had passed the Senate and await action in the Assembly. The governor has not weighed in on these proposals, he added.
The bills advanced will implement fair housing practices, implicit bias training, compensatory relief to victims of housing discrimination, create an anti-discrimination housing fund, and increase required training, Democratic state lawmakers stated.
“There is no place in New York for housing discrimination and predatory practices,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said. “Buying a new home should be a special achievement in a person’s life without the risk of becoming a victim of abhorrent discrimination. I am proud of the Democratic Majority Conference for holding these hearings and issuing an extensive report that has led this continued swift action to end these discriminatory practices and hold bad actors accountable.”
The legislation advanced by the Senate Democratic Majority includes:
Annual Covert Fair Housing Testing: This legislation, Senate Bill S.112 sponsored by Senator Anna Kaplan, requires the State Attorney General to conduct annual covert fair housing testing to assess compliance with fair housing laws throughout New York State.
“Fair housing testing” would include annual covert investigations conducted for the purpose of comparing how members and non-members of a protected class are treated when they are otherwise similarly situated (similar to federal pair testing), and gathering evidence of compliance with fair housing provisions pursuant to Human Rights Law.
Implicit Bias Training: This legislation, Senate Bill S.538B sponsored by Senator Anna Kaplan, requires real estate brokers and salespersons to receive implicit bias training as part of their license renewal process.
Compensatory Damages: This legislation, Senate Bill S.715 sponsored by Senator Kevin Thomas, compels the Commissioner of the Division of Human Rights to award compensatory damages, punitive damages, or other relief to victims of housing discrimination.
Anti-Discrimination Housing Fund: This legislation, Senate Bill S.945B sponsored by Senator Jim Gaughran, would increase the maximum fine imposed by the Department of State on real estate licensees to $2,000, and direct 50% of the fine collected to a newly created Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund to be used by the Attorney General for fair housing testing and other grants to local agencies and non-profits to fight housing discrimination.
Affirmatively Further Fair Housing: This legislation, Senate Bill S.1353 sponsored by Senator Brian Kavanagh, establishes the state’s obligation to “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing,” which directs the commissioner and heads of all housing agencies to establish and administer housing programs in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing.
Identify Brokers: This legislation, Senate Bill S.1448 sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, would require that real estate salespersons and real estate brokers licensed by the Department of State legibly write their name and license number whenever required to sign a document to make it easier to identify brokers.
Increases Required Training: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2132B sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, requires additional testing and training for initial licensing of brokers and salespeople, including specific courses on fair housing laws, the legacy of segregation, and anti-bias training, and requires licensing course faculty to certify that curriculum complies with Department of State regulations.
Standardized Client Procedures: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2131A sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, requires standardized client intake procedures for real estate brokers.
Surcharge Fee: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2133A sponsored by Senator Skoufis, adds a surcharge to the fee paid for issuing or reissuing a real estate broker or salesmen license and directs the new funds to be used for fair housing testing by the Attorney General.
Statutory Obligations of Oversight: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2157A sponsored by Senator Kevin Thomas, requires associate real estate brokers serving as real estate officer managers to exercise supervision over other associate brokers and real estate salesmen.
Client Demographic Data: This legislation, Senate Bill S.2525A sponsored by Senator Brian Kavanagh, requires real estate brokers to compile client demographic data and submit it to the Secretary of State.
In November 2019, Newsday released an investigative report proving that Black home buyers were being discriminated against. The report found that real estate agents provided an average of 50% more listings than they gave to black counterparts—39 compared with 26. In response, the legislature took swift action to pass Senate Bill S.6874A, sponsored by Senator Gaughran, to penalize licensed real estate brokers and salespersons by revoking or suspending their licenses, or issuing a fine if they violate the Human Rights Law, which includes housing discrimination.