In the wake of an explosive report from Newsday detailing an extensive practice of discrimination against homebuyers of color on Long Island, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed new regulations meant to address this problem. Yesterday, the governor announced rules that would require real estate agents to give a disclosure about fair housing and the New York State Human Rights Law to prospective clients and display this information at offices and open houses. Additionally, the proposed rules would require organizations that offer fair housing education classes to record instructional settings and keep the video for a year in response to allegations that these classes are not taken seriously in the industry.
While imposing regulations on private industries is always a controversial decision, many people who work in the real estate industry welcome the rule change. For instance, Jay Christiana, president of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, said, “Anything that is going to be fair in housing, I certainly don’t have an issue with.” However, as demonstrated by the lengthy Newsday exposé, many New York real estate agents are fairly entrenched in their practices when dealing with clients, and as such may take issue with the addition of new rules.
Newsday’s story sent shockwaves throughout the entire local real estate industry, as the discriminatory practices recorded by the newspaper’s staff shocked the island. Some in the industry suggested the story made the problem seem worse than it is; though Christiana supports the proposed anti-discrimination regulations, he said “Most people are highly ethical in our business — it’s always for the few that we’re enacting these new laws.” It should be noted that the subjects in the Newsday investigation likely violated New York law by steering clients towards communities of similar racial makeup, and Cuomo’s proposed regulations would just make it easier for the government to enforce housing laws that are already on the books.
The new rules are set to go into effect after a public comment period lasting 60 days. Assuming the rules are not revised in response to the public comments, the regulations would take effect in a little more than two months. In a prepared statement, Cuomo said, “Housing discrimination is completely unacceptable and it’s also against the law. New York State is taking immediate action to help ensure renters and homeowners are protected from any and all discriminatory actions when it comes to safe, accessible housing.”