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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             
April 13, 2011

NYC COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, JOINED BY DIASPORA COMMUNITY SERVICES, MARKS ANNIVERSARIES OF FEDERAL AND CITY FAIR HOUSING LAWS WITH EFFORTS TO INFORM TENANTS AND HOMEOWNERS OF THEIR RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO REPORT DISCRIMINATION

NYC Human Rights Commissioner/Chair Patricia L. Gatling today kicked off a Fair Housing education campaign – intensifying the Commission’s current efforts -- to inform tenants and homeowners of their rights under the NYC Human Rights Law and encourage them to report discrimination.  The campaign educates housing providers, real estate brokers, and financial institutions about the law, and calls on them to avoid discrimination. 

Joining Commissioner Gatling was Maritsa Cholmondeley, Board Chair of Diaspora Community Services. 

The Commission’s campaign comes on the 43rd anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act.  Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968, one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Fair Housing Act gave the federal government meaningful enforcement powers.  The Commission’s campaign also celebrates the 53rd anniversary of the City’s passage of the Sharkey-Brown-Isaacs Law, which went into effect ten years before the federal law.  The Sharkey-Brown-Isaacs Law was the nation’s first Fair Housing Law that extended protection against discrimination to private housing and, like the Fair Housing Act, is a central achievement of the Civil Rights Movement.

“Fair Housing means that New Yorkers have the right to live wherever they choose and be treated the same as everyone else,” said NYC Human Rights Commissioner/Chair Patricia L. Gatling.  “I am amazed and saddened that 43 years after passing the historic Fair Housing Act, individuals are still denied the right to rent an apartment or purchase a home because of their family status, lawful source of income, disability, or one of the other protected classes under the Human Rights Law.  “We are aiming to raise people’s consciousness with this campaign and strengthen this City’s unity.”

The Commission expects to reach a wide variety of audiences with the same message: discrimination is against the Law in New York City and will not be tolerated.  Commission staff is canvassing all five boroughs with valuable information on Fair Housing -- including the March 2008 amendment to the Law which protects Section 8 and other government assistance recipients from discrimination in housing.

The campaign includes: letters sent to a cross-section of housing providers, real estate firms, and lenders in NYC explaining the City Human Rights Law; posters to local businesses and offices, and informational postcards distributed to individuals and organizations.  The Commission has also extended its online presence with links on local fair housing organizations’ websites.

The NYC Commission on Human Rights enforces the City Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, and educates individuals about the Law.  The Human Rights Law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of a person’s real or perceived race, color, gender (including gender identity and sexual harassment), creed, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, partnership status, alienage or citizenship status, familial status, age, lawful occupation, and lawful source of income. 

Unlawful practices in housing, based on the listed protected classes include:

  • Refusing to sell or rent housing;
  • Misrepresenting the availability of housing;
  • Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for the sale or rental of housing;
  • Providing different housing services or facilities;
  • Posting discriminatory advertising or marketing indicating a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a protected class;
  • Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability;
  • Steering a potential homebuyer or renter to or away from an area on the basis of race or national origin;
  • Pressuring, for profit, homeowners to sell by exploiting ethnic, racial, or other demographic changes (blockbusting); and,
  • Threatening, coercing, or intimidating individuals when they exercise their fair housing rights or assist others in doing so.

The Human Rights Law prohibits discriminatory lending by banks, mortgage brokers, and other lenders. Unlawful lending practices include:

  • Refusing to make a mortgage or loan to a qualified applicant;
  • Refusing to provide information regarding loans;
  • Imposing different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees;
  • Discriminating in appraising properties, illegally assigning different values to similar properties based on race or another protected class; and,
  • Denying conventional mortgages in certain communities (redlining -- making mortgages unavailable to entire communities in a neighborhood, generally based on race).

The City Human Rights Law protects residents and applicants of most types of housing in New York City against discrimination.  An individual is covered under the Law if he or she resides in:

  • Privately-owned housing, including apartment buildings;
  • Public or government-subsidized housing;
  • Cooperatives and condominiums;
  • Residential hotels (transient hotels are considered places of public accommodation);
  • Two-family owner-occupied housing, if the owner makes the rental apartment available through advertising or public notice.

The City Human Rights Law protects Section 8 and other government assistance recipients from housing discrimination.  If an apartment building has six or more units, the landlord cannot:

  • Refuse to rent an apartment to you because you receive federal, state, or local public or housing assistance, including Section 8.
  • Refuse to accept federal, state, or local or housing assistance, including Section 8, towards the payment of rent, whether or not you are a new or existing tenant.
  • Print advertisements, including on-line or newspaper advertisements, and billboards that indicate a refusal to accept programs.

Regardless of the number of units in the building, the landlord must accept your rental subsidy if:

  • Your apartment is rent controlled and you lived there when the new law took effect in March 2008; or
  • The landlord owns another building in NYC that has six or more units. 

The Law exempts rooms in an owner-occupied dwelling, such as a person’s apartment or rooming house.  It also permits housing limited to the elderly or disabled under certain government restrictions, as well as gender-specific dormitory-type residences.

The NYC Human Rights Law is one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws in the nation, prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on the protected classes listed at the bottom of the first page.  In addition, the Law affords protection against discrimination in employment based on arrest or conviction record and status as a victim or domestic violence, stalking, and sex offenses.  The City Human Rights Law also prohibits retaliation and bias-related harassment.

If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, dial 311. 

Contact:

Betsy Herzog / bherzog@cchr.nyc.gov / 212.306.7530 -- 347.723.0938 c
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