Proposal Outlaws Discrimination Against Tenants Who Pay Rent Using Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Veterans Benefits, or Other Lawful Non-Wage Income Sources
Limits Security Deposits to Reduce Barriers to Housing
Helps Families Build Credit and Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his fiscal year 2020 Executive Budget includes a three-pronged proposal to increase access to housing. The proposal includes legislation to prohibit discrimination against tenants based on source of income, limits security deposits to a maximum of one-month's rent across the State and prevents potential tenants with poor credit from being automatically turned away by operators of state-funded housing. This is the latest step in the Governor's unprecedented $20 billion commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing, enforcing the Fair Housing Act, and addressing the homelessness crisis across New York.
"Every New Yorker deserves a safe, affordable and secure place to call home, but too many landlords engage in discriminatory and arbitrary practices that create unnecessary barriers to housing," Governor Cuomo said. "These measures will put an end to those practices once and for all and expand access to affordable housing for some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers."
"We want to make sure that all New Yorkers have access to affordable, quality housing," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "No one should be discriminated against due to income limitations, and this proposal will ensure that tenants are not automatically turned away by landlords. We're committed to helping families stay and grow in the State of New York, and continuing to expand affordable housing options statewide."
Source of Income Protections Support Fair Housing for All
The proposal combats source of income discrimination and addresses the issue of landlords who can reject applicants based on their lawful source of income. At the moment, there are certain parts of the state where local source of income protections do not exist. Currently, these landlords are preventing lower income households with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability, veterans' benefits, and other government subsidies or lawful non-wage income, from accessing safe and affordable housing. As a result, the 650,000 New Yorkers who receive some form of supplemental income, many of whom are domestic violence survivors, veterans, elderly, and disabled individuals, are often unable to find landlords who will accept their non-wage income and spend more time in shelters or in substandard housing and in concentrated areas of poverty.
The Governor's proposal would amend the New York State Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on lawful sources of income statewide, ensuring source of income is not an automatic barrier to housing, fighting homelessness, and increasing stability for New York families. The proposal reaffirms New York's commitment to assuring fair housing for all.
Limiting Security Deposits to Reduce Housing Barriers
Renting an apartment is prohibitively expensive for too many New Yorkers, and unregulated, unreasonably large security deposits disproportionately penalize working families and those living paycheck to paycheck. All too often, landlords charge security deposit, the first month's rent, and the last month's rent at the onset of a lease. The Governor's proposal allows landlords to only charge the security deposit and the first month's rent. The proposal will prevent exorbitant security deposits, removing a significant barrier to people trying to find an affordable place to live.
Holistically Evaluate Credit Scores
Too many New Yorkers with poor credit history or low credit scores are automatically and unfairly shut out of finding a home by landlords who reject applications without knowledge of an applicant's circumstances. Low-income families, immigrants, people of color, and domestic violence survivors are disproportionately impacted and often automatically rejected for a lease based solely on credit history.
To ensure all New Yorkers have access to a roof overhead, the Governor's proposal prevents state-funded housing operators from automatically rejecting applicants with poor credit history and requires instead that applicants be holistically evaluated to determine circumstances and ability to pay. Over time, HCR will work with State-funded developers of rental housing to offer tenants the option of having rent payments reported to credit bureaus at no cost, which will enable tenants to build credit history.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Banning source of income discrimination, limiting security deposits, and keeping bad credit history from blocking the path to a safe, affordable home will create a more just, and fair housing market in New York State. I am thankful that Governor Cuomo continues to find ways to break down barriers to housing so that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to take part in our growing economy."
Kristen L. Rouse, U.S. Army Veteran, Founding Director of the NYC Veterans Alliance, said, "In NYC, we've heard far too many stories from veterans and their families members about landlords who do not want to accept--or who do not understand--the validity of income veterans receive for their educational benefits, disability compensation, pension, housing assistance, or other benefits earned or issued based on their service to our nation. We've worked to address this in NYC law, but the fight is far from over. This vital addition to New York State's law will bring needed accountability for any landlords who would deny veterans and their families a home because of their source of income. We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this important issue."
DeAnna Eason, Executive Director, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc., said, "We truly appreciate Governor Cuomo's efforts to reduce the socio-economic disparities which hamper our communities. This proposal demonstrates that the Governor's commitment to the people of New York State, affordable housing and the enforcement of fair housing law is more than a notion, it is a priority."
Edward Josephson, Director of Litigation, Legal Services NYC, said, "Source of income discrimination and inappropriate credit screening deprive thousands of working New Yorkers of access to desperately needed affordable housing. Legal Services NYC applauds the Governor's efforts to dismantle barriers to housing access throughout New York State."
Fred Freiberg, Executive Director, Fair Housing Justice Center, said, "We strongly support Governor Cuomo's budget bill initiatives that would uniformly prohibit source of income discrimination, limit the amount of security deposits that landlords may require tenants to pay, and provide an opportunity for tenants with poor credit records to gain access to state-financed housing. All of these fair housing initiatives will help to remove barriers that currently prevent some of the most vulnerable and marginalized New Yorkers from accessing housing."
Judi Kende, Vice President and New York Market Leader, Enterprise Community Partners, said,"Enterprise is thrilled that Governor Cuomo is leading the charge on source of income protections in New York, and we, along with the Ban Income Bias NY campaign, thank him for his leadership. Source of income discrimination is a serious issue throughout the state that prevents low-income families, veterans, people with disabilities, seniors, and many others from accessing housing they can afford. Changing the state's human rights law is an essential piece of the fight to outlaw housing discrimination in New York to ensure that more people can access communities of their choice that they can afford."
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. 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. State-wide legislation without significant limitations is urgently needed to allow Section 8 voucher holders to fully benefit from the Section 8 assistance. We strongly support providing such protection."