REBNY strongly supports expanded use and eligibility criteria for vouchers and increased enforcement against bad actors to address systemic patterns of segregation, housing access and discriminatory practices such as against sources of income. REBNY takes seriously its role in educating brokers on their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act, state, and city licensing laws. There is zero tolerance for fair housing violations in the REBNY Residential Listing Service.
Of course, there is more work to be done. According to recent reports, only six staffers work in the Department of Social Services’ (DSS) Fair Housing Litigation Unit, which takes on source of income discrimination, down from nine from a year ago. While DSS initially hoped to hire additional attorneys and investigators following the FY22 budget, money was ultimately reallocated to the Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), to bolster its own Source of Income Unit. Unfortunately, this funding has not been utilized to bolster additional staffing needs at CCHR either. As of today, there is just one staffer assigned to CCHR’s SOI Unit—down from three in 2021 and six in past years.
As budget deliberations continue, it behooves the Council to consider allocating the appropriate resources needed by both DSS and CCHR to enforce all aspects of the Fair Housing Act, to initiate and complete investigations of wrongdoing, and to ensure access to vouchers is being prioritized to the fullest potential. The data is clear that expanding access to vouchers is an effective tool to provide financial security for tenants and access to neighborhoods of opportunity.
REBNY looks forward to working with the City Council and to continued discussion and engagement on proactive, data-based solutions that will expand access to housing for all New Yorkers. Moving government resources upstream, before housing instability results in judicial proceedings or shelter stays, will always be more cost effective than the cost of the voucher itself. More than that - it is simply the right thing to do.