Gov. Hochul Signs Bill Package to Combat Housing Discrimination | Bedford Hills Real Estate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of nine bills geared to addressing bias and discrimination in the real estate industry in New York State.

ALBANY—New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a legislative package on Dec. 21 totaling nine bills geared at combating housing discrimination and addressing issues raised in a Newsday expose entitled “Long Island Divided.”

The centerpiece of the legislation is the Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund that will permit the state to conduct fair housing testing. Other initiatives included in the bills signed into law range from increasing training and raising the maximum fines for misconduct by real estate brokers and salespersons, to emphasizing that all state and local agencies that administer state housing programs have an obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing.” These new bills, spearheaded by Senate Housing Committee Chair Brian Kavanagh and Assembly Housing Committee Chair Steven Cymbrowitz, will ensure the real estate workforce is well versed in fair housing practices and that the new fund is sufficiently resourced to carry out its intended purpose, New York State officials said.

The Newsday expose published in November 2019 was the culmination of a three-year investigation that uncovered widespread evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents on Long Island and both explicit and implicit bias that exists in the real estate industry. The expose led to State Senate hearings and some disciplinary actions taken against some of the agents identified in the series.

“For too long, the dream of owning a home has been out of reach for too many New Yorkers because of discrimination and bigotry,” said Gov. Hochul. “When intrepid investigative journalists uncovered housing discrimination in New York, we took action to end this unacceptable practice. I’m proud to sign strong new laws expanding access to fair housing and allowing more New Yorkers to achieve the American dream of owning their homes.”

In a prepared statement, the New York State Association of Realtors stated in response to the housing discrimination bills signed into law: “The New York State Association of Realtors, Inc. (NYSAR) was proud to have worked with state lawmakers over the last two years to strengthen fair housing laws in New York State. We commend Governor Hochul and the State Legislature for their actions and their willingness to work with Realtors and other industry partners toward reasonable solutions that enhance fair housing education for all real estate licensees and increase penalties for bad actors who violate the law. There is no place for illegal discrimination, whether it be in housing or elsewhere. The New York State Association of Realtors Inc. is committed to educating our members about these new laws and regulations and will promote strict compliance.”

NYSAR also noted, “Realtors have a long history of opposing illegal housing discrimination and have consistently sought constructive fair housing solutions. We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Hochul and state lawmakers on additional fair housing initiatives to the benefit of all residents of New York State.”

The following is a rundown of the new housing discrimination legislation signed into law by the governor.

Creation of the Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund

 Legislation (S.945-B/A.6866) establishes an Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund, a portion of which will be supported by fines collected for violations of anti-discrimination sections of the real property law. This bill increases the fine ceiling from $1,000 to $2,000 and then diverts 50% of the revenue from these fines to the Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund. This fund will be available to the Office of the Attorney General for fair housing testing which will allocate grants to various government and non-governmental entities specializing in anti-housing discrimination.

Increasing Fines and Adding a Surcharge to Licensing Fees

Legislation (S.2133-A/A.5363) adds a surcharge to licensing and re-licensing fees for real estate brokers and salespersons to be used for statewide fair housing efforts. The surcharge, an additional $30 for brokers and an additional $10 for salespersons, will be deposited into the Anti-Discrimination in Housing Fund for fair housing testing efforts.

State Senator James Skoufis said, “Following Newsday‘s 2019 exposé on housing discrimination, my colleagues and I opened a year-long investigation into predatory practices in real estate. We held multiple joint hearings, issued 25 subpoenas to compel uncooperative Realtors and their firms to testify, and ultimately produced a wide-ranging investigative report with many legislative recommendations to tighten regulation of this often abusive industry. By signing this package of fair housing bills, Governor Hochul is sending a clear message to housing interests across New York that all homebuyers deserve to be treated with dignity and fairness.”

State and Local Agencies Have an Obligation to Fair Housing

 Legislation (S.1353-A/A.5428-A) requires all state and local agencies administering housing programs or enforcing housing laws that receive state funding to affirmatively further fair housing. Agencies must take meaningful steps to further fair housing. Pursuant to an agreement with the legislature, the Commissioner must report significant steps taken to in line with this obligation every five years, with interim reporting in year two and year four.

Increases Required Fair Housing Training for Real Estate Professionals

Legislation (S.2132-B/A.5359) increases required trainings for real estate professionals, particularly trainings related to fair housing. Trainings are required to include, but are not limited to courses on:

• The legacy of segregation, unequal treatment, and historic lack of access to housing opportunities;

• Unequal access to amenities and resources on the basis of race, disability and other protected characteristics;

• Federal, state, and local fair housing laws and

•Anti-bias training.

The bill is designed to prevent the unequal treatment of minority homebuyers by increasing overall instructional training as well as instructional training pertaining to fair housing and discrimination in the real estate industry.

Requires Implicit Bias Training for Real Estate Brokers or Salespersons

Legislation (S.538-B/S.4638-A) requires an additional two hours of training relating to implicit bias for real estate brokers and salespersons as part of their license renewal process. During investigations into the issues brought to light by “Long Island Divided,” it became apparent that many real estate professionals were unaware of the impact implicit bias could have in their industry, state officials said. The bill ensures that all real estate professionals are made aware of how harmful implicit bias can be and how to ensure they follow fair housing guidelines.

Requires Cultural Competency Training for Real Estate Brokers or Salespersons 

Legislation (S.979-A/A.844-A) requires that coursework on cultural competency be included in the curriculum for real estate broker and salesperson license qualification, and requires an additional two hours of training for real estate professionals in comprehensive cultural competency prior to renewing broker or salesperson licenses. This will help decrease discrimination in the real estate industry, and further educate real estate professionals to ensure they follow fair housing practices.

Requiring Standardized Intake Procedures for Real Estate Professionals

Legislation (S.2131-A/A.6186) requires standardized client intake procedures for real estate brokers and allows for a penalty to be imposed on any real estate broker or salesperson who fails to comply. Pursuant to an agreement with the legislature, real estate professionals must post and maintain their standardized operating procedures at their offices for inspection by the Department of State and the public. The bill allows for client intake procedures to be monitored and standardized, preventing discriminatory practices.

Requires Associate Brokers Serving as Office Managers to Supervise Other Real Estate Professionals

Legislation (S.2157-A/A.6355) requires associate real estate brokers who serve as office mangers to supervise other real estate professionals in their office. Office managers must have been active in the real estate industry two of the four years before beginning duties as office manager. Real estate brokers are responsible for maintaining and supervising their place of business, unlike associate brokers who have the same licensing but have chosen to work under the supervision of another broker. The legislation clarifies the required level of supervision and strengthens existing Department of State regulations. In addition, the legislation specifies the length of time an associate broker is required to work prior to becoming an office manager and will therefore ensure offices are appropriately supervised by experienced real estate professionals.

Creating a Telephone Line for Housing Discrimination Complaints

 Legislation (S.3437-C/A.2300-C) establishes a dedicated telephone line for housing discrimination complaints. This telephone line will be run by the Division of Human Rights and will provide assistance to those experiencing housing discrimination. This will create a more efficient process for reporting incidents of housing discrimination.

read more…