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LAS Files Federal Suit Challenging Housing Voucher Discrimination

The Legal Aid Society has announced a federal lawsuit against a band of 88 New York City real estate brokers and landlords for violating the city’s and state’s income discrimination laws. The entities named in the lawsuit include small landlords and brokers, as well as large, national companies, like Compass, the Corcoran Group, and a Century 21 franchise office in Manhattan.

The suit arrives in the wake of a year-long investigation conducted by Housing Rights Initiative, which secretly recorded dozens of conversations in which investigators – posing as prospective tenants enrolled in Section 8, a housing voucher program that assists more than 125,000 New York households – encountered widespread bias by property owners who discriminate against people because of their source of income. In nearly 50% of cases, real estate professionals illegally refused to rent to voucher holders, as reported by The New York Times.

“Between legal services providers, civil rights law firms, and oversight agencies, there aren’t enough people to deal with this widespread issue,” said Robert Desir, a staff attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “Our hope is that through these lawsuits and publicizing the situation, we can bring people to task, especially owners who have access to a large number of apartments.”