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New York Senate Approves Bills Targeting Housing Discrimination

NEW YORK NOW - Democrats in the State Senate approved a package of bills Monday aimed at addressing discrimination in housing on Long Island, where news reports revealed a history of bias against people of color in the region’s real estate industry.

The legislation, which still has to be approved by the Assembly, would require implicit bias training for real estate agents, compensation for victims of discrimination, and more.

The package is the result of public hearings from the Legislature on housing discrimination on Long Island after Newsday published a report last year with the results of a three-year investigation on housing discrimination in the region.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, said the legislation would help prevent future cases of housing discrimination in all areas of the state.

“There is no place in New York for housing discrimination and predatory practices,” Stewart-Cousins 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.”

The legislation also comes after the state Department of Financial Services released a report last week finding evidence of housing discrimination in the city of Buffalo, where her office said mortgage lenders were less likely to offer loans to people of color.

The package of bills approved by the Senate Monday is aimed at requiring stricter anti-discrimination training among real estate brokers and salespeople, increasing penalties for discrimination, and providing stronger oversight of the industry.

One bill would require the Attorney General’s Office to investigate compliance with the state’s fair housing laws each year. Those investigations would be done covertly, according to the legislation, meaning the probe wouldn’t be public until its results.

Other legislation would require real estate professionals to undergo training on fair housing laws before they’re licensed, and would require implicit bias training when those licenses are renewed.

Another bill would require real estate professionals to compile demographic data on their clients and report their findings to the state. That way, the state can have that data on hand to assess any claims of housing discrimination.

Victims of discrimination would be entitled to compensation, and other damages, under another bill approved by the Senate Monday. The bill would allow the state Division of Human Rights to review those claims.

The package included 11 bills in total, none of which have yet to pass the Assembly.