Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed legislation (S6874-A/A8903-A) explicitly granting the Department of State the authority to discipline real estate professionals found to have violated provisions of the state Human Rights Law by revoking or suspending their license. The bill further reinforces the state's commitment to combating housing discrimination and strengthens the abilities of the secretary of state to discipline licensed professionals for discriminatory behavior. The new law also complements the department's existing regulations, which authorize the secretary to discipline licensed agents and brokers that have engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice.
"We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind in New York, and the sheer scope and breadth of the unscrupulous and discriminatory real estate practices uncovered on Long Island is repugnant to who we are," Cuomo said. "While the federal government is focused on gutting fair housing regulations that have helped so many Americans, we are vastly expanding the state's ability to crack down on unethical real estate agents and protect hard-working New Yorkers looking for a community to call home."
A press release from the governor’ office stated, “On Nov. 17, 2019, Newsday reported the results of an undercover investigation into housing discrimination on Long Island. The probe's deeply troubling findings included evidence suggesting real estate agents on Long Island engage in discriminatory conduct with disturbing frequency – including imposing unequal conditions and steering clients toward certain neighborhoods depending on their perceived race or ethnicity.”
Immediately following the Newsday report, the governor directed the Division of Human Rights, the Division of Homes and Community Renewal, and Department of State to launch a joint investigation into reports of widespread discrimination among real estate agents on Long Island.
Regulations Issued for Real Estate Professionals After Report Into Discrimination
In December, Cuomo announced new regulations for real estate professionals to help combat discrimination in the housing market statewide. The new regulations, which were approved by the New York State Real Estate Board, mandated enhanced disclosures by real estate professionals to help ensure prospective home buyers, renters, sellers and landlords receive ample information about their rights and protections under New York state law. The governor also announced several additional initiatives to combat housing discrimination across New York, which included launching a comprehensive social media campaign and housing discrimination hotline to raise awareness.
The press release noted Cuomo recently launched a statewide effort to analyze and address segregated living patterns and housing disparities in New York. Under his leadership, the state is moving forward with the Fair Housing Matters NY initiative, “despite the Trump administration recently stripping away the bedrocks of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, or AFFH, enacted in 2015, that requires states and local municipalities to analyze and develop meaningful actions to reduce segregated living patterns and concentrated areas of poverty, address unequal access to opportunity in neighborhoods, increase accessibility and strengthen fair housing enforcement.”
New York will continue to adhere to the standards and process set forth by the 2015 regulations with the Fair Housing Matters NY initiative. The goal of the initiative is to solicit input from community leaders, nonprofit organizations, housing professionals and residents on housing choice and access to housing opportunity.