Under a new state law, landlords will no longer be able to discriminate against tenants based on their income source. From now on, landlords can’t refuse people who pay rent using Section 8 housing vouchers, veterans benefits, and other lawful sources of income.
Turning tenants away because of their income source has been illegal in the city of Rochester since 2017. But Joe DiFiore, the board president of City Roots Community Land Trust, said it hasn’t been enforced.
“It’s not clear to tenants, so landlords are pretty explicit in saying ‘we don’t accept it’, or even if they aren’t explicit they can say ‘we accept section 8’ then when you write it on your application they throw the application in the garbage,” DiFiore said.
So why aren’t they accepting it? Joel Kunkler, residential re-entry center director at Volunteers of America, said if tenants don’t meet the expectations of the program they’re part of, it puts both parties at risk.
“They may terminate them from the assistance and the property owners don’t get good notice, they don’t get ample notice to ensure they’re still getting paid,” he said.
Mary Lupien, a member of the Citywide Tenants Union, said because of this concern, many people in these programs have more limited housing options.
“It’s not fair that if you have this income source then you have to live in a dangerous neighborhood just because that’s all you can find,” Lupien said.
One of these people is Marianne Caleo. She was living in an apartment for 22 years. She had some leakage and the ceiling caved in. She was told they couldn’t fix it completely because she was on Section 8.
Now, this law will be statewide and Kunkler hopes it will solidify protocol for enforcement locally.
“Everybody has the right to live anywhere they want as long as they can afford it and ultimately there’s gonna have to be some system changes to really enforce this and really give folks an opportunity.”
Kunkler said anyone who needs to report housing discrimination can do so through the New York State Division of Human Rights.
Governor Cuomo said this in a statement:
“Too often unscrupulous landlords unfairly block seniors, single mothers, survivors of domestic violence and other New Yorkers from renting a home simply because of where they get their income,”that ends today. With this legislation, we will stop this discriminatory behavior once and for all and ensure every New Yorker has access to fair housing.”