Assembly Passes Sweeping Legislative Package to Address Discriminatory Real Estate Practices

Speaker Carl Heastie and Housing Committee Chair Steven Cymbrowitz today announced the Assembly has passed a comprehensive package of legislation addressing discrimination in the real estate industry.

In 1968, the federal Fair Housing Act was passed to protect people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance or engaging in other real estate transactions. Despite these protections, more subtle and covert forms of discrimination have been proven to persist in the real estate industry. Today’s legislative package is aimed at preventing these forms of discrimination with the use of training mechanisms and the establishment of accountability measures for those conducting business in the industry.

“The Assembly Majority has long been committed to ensuring that every New Yorker has equitable access to housing,” said Speaker Heastie. “Housing discrimination has evolved since the fair housing movement, but it is still disturbingly pervasive and damaging to New Yorkers. Discrimination that was once overt has become more implicit and subtle, and this legislation will help us address it head on.”

“We must work as a state to overcome historic patterns of discrimination and segregation,” said Assemblymember Cymbrowitz. “By creating an obligation to affirmatively further fair housing for all state agencies and localities administering housing-related programs and laws, New York will no longer participate in harmful and discriminatory practices, and will instead actively seek to create more diverse and inclusive communities.”

Accountability and Standards

The package includes legislation aimed at addressing the disparate treatment of minority homebuyers and minority communities in real estate transactions. Included in the package is a measure that would require real estate brokers to establish standardized operating procedures and practices designed to ensure that all prospective buyers are treated equitably (A.6186, Griffin).

Under current law, the Department of State can revoke or suspend the license of a real estate broker or salesperson or impose a fine not exceeding $1,000 for certain violations. Legislation included in the package would increase the fine from $1,000 to $2,000. The revenues collected from these fines would be distributed to county-level human rights commissions and a fund designed to aid the fight against discrimination in housing (A.6866, Jean-Pierre). 

In New York, real estate brokers are required to maintain and supervise a principle place of business, however, they can appoint a licensed associate real estate broker as an office manager to oversee branch offices. As an additional accountability measure, the Assembly passed legislation that would require associate real estate brokers who are serving as office managers to have been active as a licensed broker for at least two of the four years leading up to their appointment as manager. This requirement assures that these individuals, who are responsible for supervising others, are equipped with the training and experience necessary to comply with fair housing regulations (A.6355, Solages).

State Commitment to Furthering Fair Housing

Legislation also included in this package would amend state law to require meaningful steps to affirmatively further fair housing practices. This bill would require state housing agencies and local housing agencies that receive state funds to identify and overcome patterns of segregation, eradicate racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty, reduce disparities in access to opportunity, eliminate disproportionate housing needs, provide the public with reasonable and regular opportunities to comment, and encourage and maintain compliance with New York’s fair housing law (A.5428-A, Cymbrowitz).

Another bill passed today would fund statewide fair housing testing efforts by implementing a surcharge on the licensing fees for brokers and agents (A.5363, Jean-Pierre). Under the bill, a $30 surcharge would be added to the fee for a broker’s license, and a $10 surcharge would be added to the fee for a real estate sales license. The surcharges would be collected by the Department of State, payable to the Office of the Attorney General. The funds will be designated for statewide testing and monitoring of discrimination in the real estate industry.

Training for Real Estate Salespeople and Brokers

The legislative package includes multiple pieces of legislation that are aimed at making the training required by brokers and salespeople for licensure more comprehensive. One bill would provide that no license or renewal license may be issued unless the licensee has received at least six hours of instruction pertaining to fair housing and/or discrimination in the sale or rental of real property within two years before renewal (A.1760, Jean-Pierre). Another bill would require that real estate brokers and salespeople receive implicit bias training as a part of the licensure or re-licensure process (A.4638-A, Sillitti).

Additional measures included in the package would require that an individual pursuing licensure or re-licensure as a real estate broker receive at least two hours of cultural competency training (A.844, Jean-Pierre). A bill was also passed that would require the Secretary of State to create a curriculum of instruction for real estate brokers and salespeople in the area of fair housing laws and discrimination in sale of real property (A.5359, Cruz).

“It is unconscionable that in the year 2021 housing discrimination remains such a widespread problem in New York,” said Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre. “We must put an end to the horrifying discriminatory practices that persist on Long Island and across New York. The legislation in this package will go a long way in educating salespeople and brokers, and help the state address the more covert and subtle forms of discrimination that have become all too common.”

“While housing discrimination is by no means a new phenomenon, it has transformed from obvious and deliberate behavior to more subtle and insidious conduct that we must address head on,” said Assemblymember Michaelle Solages. “My legislation helps ensure proper oversight over real estate agents irrespective of whether they are working out of a broker’s principal place of business or in a branch office under an office manager.”

“The blatantly disparate service provided to minority homebuyers that was brought to light in a recent exposé was appalling and unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Judy Griffin. “My legislation will mandate certain standard operating procedures for assisting all prospective homebuyers fairly and help ensure that those who do not comply are held accountable.”

“The recent report on discriminatory real estate practices demonstrated an alarming deficiency in the quality of training courses for salespeople and brokers,” said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. “This legislative package addresses the clear need for higher standards and educational training for people working in the real estate industry, which is a first step in addressing this pervasive issue.”

“Bias has long existed in this industry, but the level of implicit bias we witnessed in this Long Island exposé was extremely disturbing and needs to be addressed in a meaningful way,” said Assemblymember Gina Sillitti. “My legislation will ensure that salespeople and brokers are educated on implicit bias and the illegal and immoral impact it has on our communities.”