New Law Prohibits Source of Income Discrimination to Protect Tenants Who Pay Rent Using Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Veterans Benefits, or Other Lawful Sources of Income
Announcement Made as New York State Celebrates Fair Housing Month and the Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the FY 2020 Enacted Budget includes legislation to outlaw housing discrimination based on the lawful source of a person's income. Source of income is often used by landlords as a pretext to discriminate against potential tenants who are single mothers, survivors of domestic violence, veterans, minorities, elderly individuals or individuals with disabilities. The legislation reaffirms New York's commitment to fair housing for all as the State celebrates Fair Housing Month and the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.
"Too often unscrupulous landlords unfairly block seniors, single mothers, survivors of domestic violence and other New Yorkers from renting a home simply because of where they get their income," Governor Cuomo said. "That ends today. With this legislation, we will stop this discriminatory behavior once and for all and ensure every New Yorker has access to fair housing."
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "The Senate Majority is committed to protect New Yorkers' access to safe, affordable housing. Under the enacted State Budget, individuals who receive some sort of non-wage income including domestic violence survivors, veterans, the elderly, and disabled New Yorkers will now be protected against housing discrimination. The Senate Majority will continue to fight for New Yorkers' rights to safe, affordable housing options and to ensure they can stay in their homes and communities."
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "The Assembly Majority remains committed to fighting for fair, affordable housing and protecting tenants across New York State. For too long, New Yorkers have struggled with ever increasing rents with little to no growth in wages. Low income families already face too many barriers when it comes to obtaining affordable housing. This legislation will break down one of those barriers, ensuring that tenants cannot be discriminated against based on the source of their income."
"We're working to make sure that all New Yorkers have access to affordable, quality housing," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "No one should be discriminated against based on their source of income, and this new law will help to protect tenants including single mothers and survivors of sexual assault, and those who receive benefits as veterans and individuals with disabilities. In New York, we are committed to ensuring fair housing and protecting our most vulnerable individuals in communities across the state."
The legislation announced today amends the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit housing discrimination based on lawful sources of income in all communities statewide. Landlords are now prohibited from automatically rejecting applicants based on their source of income and preventing lower income households from accessing safe and affordable housing. Lawful sources of income include Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability, veterans' benefits, and other government subsidies.
Landlords have used the refusal to accept nonwage income to discriminate against lower income households including single mothers, survivors of domestic violence, veterans, minorities, the elderly and individuals with disabilities. This new law will enable New York families with such sources of income to more easily transition out of shelters, substandard housing, and concentrated areas of poverty by removing this key barrier to accessing housing.
The legislation, enacted as part of the fiscal year 2020 Executive Budget, reaffirms New York's commitment to the values and goals of the Fair Housing Act and the New York State Human Rights Law. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and its later amendments outlawed housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. New York State began prohibiting public housing discrimination in 1956 and private housing discrimination in 1963, and the NYS Human Rights Law now forbids housing discrimination on the above federal bases as well sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, military status, and as of this important legislation, source of income.
The State Division of Human Rights is empowered by the NYS Human Rights Law to investigate and prosecute individual and systematic patterns of discrimination. These efforts protect New Yorkers and ensure equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural and intellectual opportunities of the state.
The Governor's commitment to providing all New Yorkers with access to safe, affordable housing that pursues the goals of the Fair Housing Act and the NYS Human Rights Law is reflected in the state's unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan. The plan makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building or preserving more than 100,000 affordable homes, and an additional 6,000 with support services. The plan is a comprehensive approach to statewide housing issues and includes multi-family and single-family housing and community development.
The law announced today builds upon the Governor's achievements, including the 2012 allocation of $880 million to supportive housing initiatives as part of the Medicaid Redesign; and the creation of the Tenant Protection Unit that since 2012 has brought more than 76,000 apartments back to the regulated system.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Governor Cuomo and New York's legislative leaders have broken down a barrier so often faced by lower income households when attempting to rent an apartment. These tactics used by landlords can make it impossible for New Yorkers in need to secure a home. By prohibiting source of income discrimination in every community of New York State, we are continuing our fight against homelessness and increasing access to safe, fair and affordable housing for all."
New York State Division of Human Rights Acting Commissioner Angela Fernandez said, "Source of income discrimination has been used as a weapon against lower-income families. The new law expands the number of places these families are able to live with dignity. DHR looks forward to vigorously enforcing this new provision."
Senator Brian Kavanagh, Chair of the Senate Housing Committee, said, "This legislation will eliminate an obstacle to safe and affordable housing that many, many New Yorkers have faced. Permitting discrimination based on a potential tenant's source of income is at odds with our values, and diminishes the effectiveness of our affordable housing subsidy programs. With this law, many more tenants will have a fair shot at finding housing. I'm glad we were able to get it done!"
Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz, Chair of the Assembly's Housing Committee, said, "Discriminating against tenants based on source of income hurt those New Yorkers who needed our help the most. This legislation removes an obstacle facing thousands of vulnerable people each year who are trying to find safe, decent and stable places to live."
Assembly Member Latoya Joyner said, "No New Yorker should ever suffer from housing discrimination, and for too long, landlords have denied access to housing on the basis of one's income. Thanks to the legislation enacted in this year's budget, this terrible mistreatment will no longer be tolerated. I am proud to have been a part of the passage of this critical bill and thank the Governor and our legislative leaders for their support on this issue."
Senator Leroy Comrie said, "I am extremely heartened that the recently enacted FY 2019-20 New York State Budget contained major provisions of legislation I have long sponsored—in the form of Senate Bill 3011—which affirmatively prevents housing discrimination based upon the source of income. Safe and affordable housing is among the most essential and fundamental building blocks in life and this new law protects the inherent right of our most vulnerable individuals and families to fully access the housing market with respect and dignity, sans economic bias. I applaud the Governor and our legislative leaders for getting this done for New Yorkers."
Senator Kevin Parker said, "We can not tolerate housing discrimination of any kind in New York State. My colleagues and I will continue to put the necessary measures in place to ensure we bring awareness during Fair Housing Month and beyond. By outlawing discrimination in the NYS budget we are ensuring all tenants have rights and that their housing is a priority, no matter their race or income."
Senator James Sanders Jr. said, "Everyone deserves the opportunity to have access to affordable housing if they can pay their rent through lawful sources of income, even if that means using vouchers, Section 8 or other public assistance programs. I support Governor Cuomo, Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie in their efforts to reduce / eliminate discriminatory practices by landlords against potential tenants.
Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley said, "For years tenants across this state have consistently worried about whether they would have a roof over their head. The power dynamic between landlord and tenant has always been tenuous. Today, we have arrived at a critical juncture in our state history. I am pleased to tell you today that the lawful source of income bill that I championed for years in the assembly has been passed in this year's budget and am now New York State law. This law will protect those all across our state who are the most vulnerable. People like our seniors who use Social Security and supplement their rent with other forms of income. Our Veterans, who paid the ultimate sacrifice, single working class head of households, and those with section 8 vouchers, also faced the same issue. Far too many people, whose only crime is that they dared to pay their rent, through multiple sources of LAWFUL income to pay their rent. It is immoral at best and discrimination at its worst. It was and is unacceptable. I am proud to have played a small role in helping not only my constituents but citizens all across this great state."
Assembly Member David I. Weprin said, "Source of income housing discrimination not only leaves New York families without a place to live but also isolates them from access to high-quality schools, hospitals, employment opportunities, & resources over time. It was imperative that we end housing discrimination based on the income source of a person in New York this year and I applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo for making this important step that protects New York's tenants."
Elaine Gross, President of ERASE Racism, said, "Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie deserve great credit for ensuring enactment of this vital law and now using their offices to draw attention to it. It's essential that New Yorkers understand their right to use legal sources of income for their housing and that property owners understand their obligation to immediately ensure that they and their agents are abiding by the law. Today's announcement puts the weight of the highest level of State government behind fair housing."
Judi Kende, Vice President and New York Market Leader, Enterprise Community Partners, said, "Enterprise is thrilled that Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature are leading the charge on source of income protections in New York, and we, along with the Ban Income Bias NY campaign, thank them for their leadership. Source of income discrimination prevents low-income families, veterans, people with disabilities, seniors, and many others from accessing housing they can afford. Now that it has been banned statewide, we look forward to working with the Governor and state leaders to educate landlords and communities about the new law and ensure it is strongly enforced so every New Yorker can live in the neighborhood of their choice."
M. DeAnna Eason, Executive Director, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc., said, "Housing Opportunities Made Equal applauds Governor Cuomo's commitment to providing equal opportunity in housing in New York State. The enactment of this law demonstrates the Governor's desire to combat systemic segregation and will provide access to safe, healthy, and affordable housing to populations who are often ignored or overlooked."
Marlene Zarfes, Executive Director, Westchester Residential Opportunities Inc., said, "Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. receives more complaints about discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders than any other protected class. The second highest number of complaints received are from people with disabilities. This discrimination significantly limits the availability of housing for low income or disabled people. Although Westchester has enacted source of income legislation that includes protection for voucher holders, the law is limited by size of building and doesn't apply to co-ops or condos. The state-wide legislation recently enacted contains no significant limitations and fulfills an urgent need to protect Section 8 voucher holders, people with disabilities using government vouchers and other marginalized populations. WRO applauds the passage of this legislation."
Sally Santangelo, Executive Director, CNY Fair Housing, said, "We are excited to see lawful source of income protections expanded to all New Yorkers. Source of income discrimination has limited housing opportunities and contributed to segregation and concentrations of poverty in communities across New York. We look forward to working to educate the community and enforce the law to expand housing choice for some of the most vulnerable households we serve."
About New York State Homes and Community Renewal
New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) works to create, preserve and improve affordable homes, and to develop vibrant communities. HCR is executing Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan, which is making housing accessible and combating homelessness by building and preserving more than 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 supportive apartments. The plan is a comprehensive approach to statewide housing issues, and includes investing in multifamily and single-family housing, furthering community development strategies, and preserving rent stabilization. For more information on HCR, its programs and its initiatives, please visit hcr.ny.gov and follow us on Twitter @NYSHCR.
About New York State Division of Human Rights
The New York State Division of Human Rights is the agency in charge of enforcing the Human Rights law, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, and other jurisdictions, based on age, race, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, military status, and other protected classes. For more information about the Human Rights Law and the work of the agency, please visit the Division's website at www.dhr.ny.gov.