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New York State Division of Human Rights announces new actions to promote fair housing

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Mon, Apr 5th 2021 12:20 pm

The New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR) recently announced the launch of statewide public awareness campaign for Fair Housing Month to ensure all New Yorkers are fully aware of the state’s antidiscrimination protections in housing. The campaign will include social media advertising, internet display advertising, informational materials and videos, and educational events.

To launch the campaign, DHR will host a virtual kickoff event at 1 p.m. today.

“The Division of Human Rights is committed to eradicating housing discrimination,” Interim Commissioner Johnathan J. Smith said. “This campaign is an important effort in educating New Yorkers about their rights and making sure they know what to do if they are a victim of housing discrimination.

April, which is National Fair Housing Month, celebrates the passage of the Fair Housing Act in April 1968. This year, to commemorate the month, DHR will conduct a statewide campaign titled “Journey of Fair Housing.” The campaign, which is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will also include a series of regional virtual events throughout the month focused on source of income discrimination, the subject of one of the State Human Rights Law’s newest protections against housing discrimination that prohibits landlords from automatically rejecting housing applicants on the basis of their lawful sources of income (like Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Social Security Disability, veterans’ benefits, and other government subsidies).

Registration for all of these events is open on the division’s website at https://dhr.ny.gov/fairhousing.

Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) would provide $250,000 in funding to nonprofit organizations to deploy undercover testers across the state to root out discrimination in home rental and sale transactions. He also announced that new Department of State regulations will require licensed and certified real estate appraisers to receive training on fair housing and fair lending as part of their continuing education requirements. Cuomo also announced a report by the New York State Department of Financial Services on redlining in the Buffalo metropolitan area that found lending by mortgage lenders – particularly nondepository lenders – continues today in Buffalo neighborhoods with majority-minority populations and to minority homebuyers in general.

A press release stated, “In his State of the State message in January, Gov. Cuomo continued the fight against racial injustices in the housing market with a package of reforms designed to bridge the racial divide in homeownership and tear down barriers to wealth-building. The proposal expands the reach of HCR's State of New York Mortgage Agency and gives teeth to the fight against redlining by allowing more community-based lenders to offer SONYMA loans in low-income communities, increasing down payment assistance for borrowers in underserved areas of the state to $7,500 from $3,000, and granting SONYMA flexibility to make mortgage modifications in times of crisis so borrowers can remain in their homes.

“These reforms will help supplement previous actions, such as enacting the most aggressive tenant protections in New York's history through the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019; banning source of income discrimination; and prohibiting housing providers in receipt of state funds from automatically denying applicants housing based on negative credit or a history of justice involvement.”

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