Our History: 4 Decades of Fair Housing Advocacy & Enforcement
Long Island Housing Services functions as the only dedicated fair housing agency serving all of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Unique in our multifaceted services and unparalleled in our commitment to fair housing advocacy and enforcement, LIHS is nationally recognized and is one of the earliest private, nonprofits established in the USA.
Civil Rights’ Roots – The 1960s
Within a week after the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, was passed. The next year, what has developed into Long Island's premier and unique fair housing organization was formed through the [then Smith Haven] Ministries.
Concerned volunteers representing civic and religious group leaders came together to combat racially discriminatory practices and segregation on Long Island. Well-qualified, prospective black purchasers and renters were unable to secure housing and get honest information about opportunities so easily available to whites.
Suffolk Housing Services (SHS) – The 1970s
Early in the 1970s, our all volunteer group incorporated, becoming an independent, non-profit, fair housing agency known as Suffolk Housing Services. The group became well known for successfully challenging real estate agencies, management companies, landlords, and owners where investigation revealed solid evidence for discrimination.
The agency doggedly brought and supported major litigation challenging restrictive zoning that effectively prohibited development and opportunity for affordable housing. These zoning challenges undertaken resulted in landmark decisions and exposure of the harmful social and economic effects of such barriers.
National Acclaim – The 1980s
In the mid-1980s the agency became nationally acclaimed for its investigation and testing abilities with an Eastern District landmark jury award of $565,000 in favor of two black air traffic controllers. SHS conducted tests that proved that black prospective tenants were falsely denied rental housing at the Watergate Apartments in Patchogue, NY, while contemporaneously whites were encouraged.
Serving All of Long Island – The 1990s
In 1991 the agency expanded its services to investigate discrimination in Nassau County and became Long Island Housing Services. LIHS' work in challenging all kinds of discrimination, but especially race, handicap, and familial status, has received national attention. In 1994 LIHS' successful testing program was highlighted on CBS' "48 Hours" news magazine show. The story featured undercover black and white testers being given false information about availability of housing by the broker.
Leading in Fair Housing – The 21st Century
Today LIHS continues to challenge racial and economic discrimination and has established itself as the lead Long Island agency challenging unlawful disability discrimination.
Since 2002, the agency has successfully conciliated landmark complaints against several major developers in pursuing compliance with the Fair Housing Act's requirements for accessibility in multi-family design and construction in senior and non-age restricted rental, co-op and condo settings, increasing housing opportunities for people with disabilities in well over 1,000 units.
In addition to litigation, LIHS has helped to informally resolve and obtain needed modifications and accommodations for countless others with disabilities. In the last few years, more than half of the individual claims of discrimination reported to LIHS relate to people with disabilities encountering housing denial and discrimination.
We have also successfully challenged a number of housing providers that have published discriminatory advertising that particularly impacts families with children, people with disabilities and others. In many of these cases, testing has helped to establish proof of exclusionary, discriminatory practices.
LIHS’ Fair Housing Testing program is a way in which individuals aligned with our mission can greatly enhance our abilities to facilitate Fair Housing enforcement. If you are interested in volunteering with us as a tester, please click here for information.