Long Island Housing Services (LIHS) settled a Familial Status and Source of Income complaint against Harbour Club LLC d/b/a Willow Lake Apartments. In 2021, as part of the systemic investigation for potential source of income discrimination, LIHS’ testers posed as ordinary home seekers to document the treatment they experienced for LIHS to determine compliance with fair housing laws.
People who believe that they have experienced housing discrimination in Nassau or Suffolk Counties, can contact Long Island Housing Services, Inc. at 631-567-5111 ext. 375. Hablamos Español 631-567-5111 Ext. 378 or email@example.com
Housing Discrimination Investigation
Long Island Housing Services’ 2021 testing and investigation revealed evidence that testers with Section 8 vouchers who posed as participants of the Making Moves program were allegedly told that they need to have a minimum income of 3x the rent even though the majority of the rent would be paid by a Housing Choice Voucher through Community Development of Long Island (CDLI) directly to the housing providers.
The Making Moves program provided housing mobility coaching and financial assistance to Housing Choice Voucher families that have children age 18 or under and are interested in living in well-resourced areas such as Smithtown.
A LIHS Protected Class Tester who contacted Willow Lake with a Housing Choice Section 8 Voucher was told that she would need to have a minimum credit score of 680 and proof of funds that meets 3x the annual rent, requiring an annual income of $90,000. New York State recognizes that “persons receive vouchers because they have low income and lack wealth. Unreasonable wealth requirements could exclude everyone with a voucher and negate the intended protections of the law. For example, a requirement of a certain level of income based on a formula tied to the rental cost, even though required of other tenants, would be unreasonable if applied to a tenant who has 70% to 100% of the rent paid by the vouchering agency.”
Additionally, “a blanket policy of denying an applicant with a low credit score is especially pernicious because it harms some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including people of color, domestic violence survivors, and people with disabilities. Furthermore, advocates and stakeholders have found that credit score is a faulty indicator of whether or not a tenant will pay his or her rent on time.”
Another LIHS Protected Class tester was told “we do not accept section 8” and was not sure the landlord would accept the Protected Tester’s Mobility Program section 8 voucher (NCLI) which explicitly violates the law to accept all lawful income.
Fair Housing Laws
Denial of the acceptance of the program may constitute familial status and source of income discrimination because the Making Moves program is designed for families with minor children who have Housing Choice Voucher vouchers.
New York State, Suffolk County, and Nassau County Human Rights Laws prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income. Source of income discrimination occurs when a housing provider refuses to accept a lawful source of income, including, but not limited to, Supplemental Social Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSD), Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Nursing Home Transition and Diversion (NHTD) Housing Subsidy, Olmstead Housing Subsidy (OHS), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Medicaid Waiver program, or child support.
The federal Fair Housing Act in addition to New York State, Suffolk County, and Nassau County Human Rights Laws, prohibit discrimination based on familial status. The law against housing discrimination based on familial status protects any person who is pregnant or has a child or is in the process of securing legal custody of any child under the age of eighteen years old. In addition, it includes anyone under the age of eighteen years old living with a parent, someone with legal custody, or the parent’s designee.
Reinforcing Fair Housing Rights
LIHS negotiated the settlement agreement which included monetary damages of $19,500 to LIHS, and the Respondents would be required to adopt a non-discriminatory fair housing policy, display compliance with fair housing laws, and participate in fair housing training.
“The Housing Choice Voucher is one of several national market-based programs for providing housing for those in need, which often fails to do so because the market fails to accept the vouchers,” said Ian Wilder, LIHS Executive Director. The federal government is well-aware of this failure but has failed to include Source of Income as a protected class under the federal Fair Housing Act. Nonprofits like Long Island Housing Services have had to step in to convince New York State, Suffolk County, and Nassau County to correct this failure by passing their own Source of Income statutes. The federal government should make Source of Income a federal protected class to fix the national voucher programs. Furthermore, the federal government should repeal the Faircloth Amendment which would allow it to go back to building affordable housing for lower-income and middle-income residents as it did in decades past.”
- Smithtown’s Willow Lake apartment complex pays $19,500 to settle housing discrimination claims, Newsday, January 30, 2024
- Smithtown landlord settles income discrimination complaint, Long Island Business News, January 29, 2024
Founded in 1969, Long Island Housing Services, Inc. is a private, nonprofit HUD-qualified Fair Housing Enforcement Organization and a federally certified Housing Counseling agency. Long Island Housing Services’ mission is the elimination of unlawful discrimination and promotion of decent and affordable housing through advocacy and education. (www.LIFairHousing.org)
LIHS has been recognized by Long Island Press in 2023 as a “Real Estate Player” and for the last three years by City & State magazine as a “Long Island Power 100.” LIHS has also has Platinum status with Candid for its transparency.
The Fair Housing enforcement and advocacy work of LIHS is supported through grants from Enterprise Community Partners.