FHJC INVESTIGATION REVEALS VOUCHER DISCRIMINATION
Today, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced it has filed a new source of income discrimination administrative complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights against real estate brokerage firms Bah Realty Group, LLC and Posh Premises LLC, property owner 258 Beach 13 LLC, and licensed real estate broker Scheffeé Wilson.
The complaint stems from a 2022 investigation launched by the FHJC relating to 258 Beach 13th Street, a two-story, two-unit building located in Far Rockaway.
FHJC testers contacted Ms. Wilson inquiring about an apartment in the building that had been listed on StreetEasy. Some of the testers claimed to derive their income solely from employment, while others stated they would be using vouchers from government housing subsidy programs to pay their rent. In each case, the amount of the voucher more than covered the entire monthly rent.
According to the complaint, Ms. Wilson was evasive with the testers with vouchers about availability and indicated that she could not show them the apartment without following up with the owner and/or determining if there was a pending application. Eventually she stopped responding to them altogether.
In stark contrast, she allowed the testers with income solely from employment to view the apartment and told them that they could apply, never mentioning a pending application or a need to confer with the owner.
The complaint alleges violations of the New York State Human Rights Law, as well as comparable New York City law. The full complaint can be read HERE.
“The timing of the tests…confirms that Wilson’s behavior cannot be explained by changes in unit availability,” the complaint states. “The only explanation is discrimination.”
“While discrimination lawsuits against huge corporations achieve large settlements and grab headlines, smaller landlords often feel they can fly under the legal radar,” stated FHJC Legal Coordinator Madhulika Murali. “But discrimination by these so-called ‘mom-and-pop’ operations is just as damaging.”
The FHJC is represented by Attorneys Mariann Meier Wang, Alex Goldenberg, and Heather Gregorio with the law firm Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.
“Voucher programs are designed to provide safe and stable housing for the City’s most vulnerable residents. Discrimination in rental practices like that uncovered in this case perpetuates housing instability and homelessness and cannot be tolerated,” stated Ms. Gregorio.
The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen enforcement of fair housing laws in the New York City region.