Sunday, September 13, 2015

Big Brooklyn Landlord Tagged In Fair Housing Suit, Accused Of Violating NYC Human Rights Law By Discriminating Against Prospective Tenants Who Planned To Pay Rent With Housing Subsidy Created To Help Homeless Families

In New York City, the Fair Housing Justice Center recently announced:
  • On August 31, 2015, the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and two women with rental subsidies filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court alleging that Starrett City, Inc. and Grenadier Realty Corp. are discriminating against prospective renters based on source of income in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.

    The two individual plaintiffs, Regina Alston and Sandra Vaughn-Cooke, were each denied an opportunity to rent apartments at Spring Creek Towers in Brooklyn because they were planning to pay their rent with a Living in Communities (LINC) rental subsidy. The LINC program was created by the City of New York to assist homeless individuals and families in moving from temporary shelters into permanent housing.

    Spring Creek Towers, formerly known as Starrett City, is a 5800-unit residential development located at 1255 Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn. Grenadier Realty Corp. is a full-service property management company with a portfolio of over 40 properties that contain 22,000 rental units.

    Ms. Alston and Ms. Vaughn-Cooke attempted to rent apartments at Spring Creek Towers, but were each told that the landlord does not accept LINC vouchers. In response to complaints from Ms. Alston and Ms. Vaughn-Cooke, the FHJC coordinated a testing investigation. Agents for defendants informed FHJC testers that LINC rental subsidies would not be accepted at Spring Creek Towers. As a result of the defendants’ discriminatory conduct, Ms. Alston and her two children were forced to remain in a crowded, unsanitary shelter until her family could move into public housing. Ms. Vaughn-Cooke remains homeless and continues to reside in a crowded, unsanitary shelter unable to locate suitable housing in a safe neighborhood.

    FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg commented, “The housing choices available to lower income households with rental subsidies are severely constrained by widespread source of income discrimination. Housing discrimination forces many subsidy holders through an invisible poor door back to high poverty neighborhoods that are often unsafe or unhealthy places to live, areas with few amenities, substandard housing, and/or poor performing schools.” Freiberg urged more vigorous enforcement of fair housing laws and added, “The City agencies providing these subsidies and their non-profit partners have a duty to locate housing options that improve the quality of life for subsidy holders, break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, and reduce residential segregation.”

    [New York City] HRA Commissioner Steven Banks said, “Families whose rent is paid with government assistance have the same right to rent an apartment as everyone else. City government will take action whenever discrimination by landlords is reported to us and we thank The Legal Aid Society, Mayer Brown and the Fair Housing Justice Center for bringing a lawsuit in this case.”

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