The update to the landmark Closing the Divide report examines New York’s progress and shortcomings on the fair housing goals identified in 2019
The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and Enterprise Community Partners, co-conveners of the Statewide Affordable and Fair Housing Roundtable, today released a progress report regarding the 2019 publication, Closing the Divide: Creating Equitable, Inclusive, and Affordable Communities.
A major publication representing the perspectives of both affordable and fair housing organizations statewide, Closing the Divide outlined 9 major barriers to achieving equitable housing in New York State and laid out specific policy recommendations to address them. The newly released progress report assesses advances made in New York in the five years since, and outlines the barriers that persist and which must be at the forefront of policymakers’ minds as we approach a new legislative session.
The 2024 progress report finds that there has been a more consistent focus on furthering fair housing, galvanized in part by a groundbreaking 2019 Newsday investigation identifying widespread housing discrimination among real estate agents in Long Island based on race. With the Roundtable’s support, New York State legislators have since passed more than 13 bills tackling housing discrimination, including the NYS Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing bill. However, the progress report definitively finds that that much more action, including specific suggested measures, is needed to expand fair housing protections and increase enforcement activity.
“We are pleased that the Roundtable’s work over the last five years has led to progress in a number of key areas. However, rampant discrimination remains a critical impediment to New Yorkers’ housing choice,” stated FHJC’s Policy Manager Britny McKenzie. “We hope that this progress report calls attention to critical barriers that must be addressed now.”
“We’ve seen many transformational victories for affordable and fair housing since 2019, including the passage of New York State’s ban on source of income discrimination, all of which would not have happened with the dedicated work of advocates across the State,” says Baaba Halm, New York vice president and market leader of Enterprise Community Partners. “But too many crucial steps remain untaken that would make a life-changing difference for thousands of New Yorkers. As we face an increasing Statewide shortage of affordable housing, we urge our state and local lawmakers to come together to enact these vital recommendations.”
Specific priorities identified in Closing the Divide, and progress made to achieve them in the years since, include:
- Improving Tenant Protections through the Metropolitan Region. While New York has strengthened its rent regulation laws, the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact in the past few years has revealed emerging vulnerabilities such as high rent increases and housing insecurity, which must be addressed by policymakers to ensure tenants are protected.
- Removing Exclusionary Zoning and Other Land Use Barriers to Promote Accessible, Integrated and Affordable Housing. While New York City has passed its own Fair Housing Framework in the face of State inaction, a true Statewide approach to comprehensive planning, growth, and affordable housing fair share has yet to be enacted. This must include the creation of a Housing Appeals Board and a Statewide Vacant Apartments Acquisition Program.
- Maximizing Density to Address Affordable Multifamily Housing Development Throughout the Region. Progress has been made, with the rezoning of select higher-opportunity neighborhoods in New York City and with a recent 2023 Executive Order from Governor Hochul to direct resources to Pro-Housing Communities around the State. But unrealized priorities, including legalizing basement apartments and more widely legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), have only become more essential in the face of climate change-related housing risks and the spiraling affordable housing shortage. A comprehensive, data-driven growth plan would also help to tackle the need for denser housing Statewide.
- Expanding Statewide Source of Income Protections. In significant victories for fair housing, driven by Enterprise and many other Roundtable members, New York State passed a landmark ban on source of income discrimination in April 2019 and funded the Fair Housing Testing program. The progress report’s current recommendations include prioritizing increased funding for the Fair Housing Testing program and implementing more Statewide education efforts to combat emerging proxy discrimination and inform renters, landlords, and brokers of their rights and obligations under the law.
- Increasing Protections for Justice-Involved Individuals. Significant measures passed since 2019 include New York State’s Clean Slate Act and the New York City Council’s Fair Chance for Housing Act, as well as the creation of initiatives like the Justice Involved Supportive Housing Program (JISH), which offer valuable opportunities. However, the need for housing and protection against discrimination towards the justice-involved population outpaces current solutions.
- Bolstering True Mobility Throughout the Region. The State has recognized the need for additional resources to enable true housing choice for more New Yorkers, including its support of the Making Moves Mobility program, administered by Enterprise, in several regions. In addition, New York City recently announced that CityFHEPS rental assistance vouchers can be used for housing anywhere in New York State. However, widely supported solutions such as the proposed Housing Access Voucher Program (HAVP) remain on the table for the State to enact and fund.
Ultimately, the Closing the Divide progress report finds while significant effort has been made in the form of laws passed and funding allocated to advance fair and affordable housing, much more action is needed to address housing supply and density issues, economic mobility limitations, exclusionary zoning, desegregation, and enforcement of discrimination. The progress report identifies concrete and achievable measures that would bring the State much closer to creating truly equitable, inclusive, and affordable communities.
A coalition of 30 New York organizations, the Statewide Affordable and Fair Housing Roundtable was launched in 2017 and developed the 2019 Closing the Divide report after more than a year of collaboration, as the participants identified shared priorities affecting the affordable and fair housing industries that these sectors could work together to advance.
To view the full Closing the Divide progress report (2024), click HERE.
About Enterprise Community Partners
Enterprise is a national nonprofit that exists to make a good home possible for the millions of families without one. We support community development organizations on the ground, aggregate and invest capital for impact, advance housing policy at every level of government, and build and manage communities ourselves. Since 1982, we have invested $64 billion and created 951,000 homes across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – all to make home and community places of pride, power and belonging. Join us at enterprisecommunity.org.
About the Fair Housing Justice Center
The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), a regional civil rights organization based in New York City, is dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination, promoting open, accessible, and inclusive communities, and strengthening the enforcement of fair housing laws. FHJC investigations have led to more than 155 legal challenges that have changed the way many housing providers do business, opened more than 80,000 housing opportunities to previously excluded people, and recovered more than $55 million in damages and penalties for victims of housing discrimination. Learn more at www.fairhousingjustice.org.