The news of the past week turned our country’s attention to the shocking and senseless death of George Floyd and its aftermath, amidst the backdrop of the Coronavirus epidemic. Each day, as news broadcasts show split screens of protestors, scholars, media personalities and artists have offered insight, sometimes from their own personal experience, to the history of racial inequality in the United States.
Jon Batiste, the New Orleans-born jazz musician of the group “Stay Human”, whose genealogy was featured in last season’s PBS program “Finding Your Roots” said on Monday: “I am feeling optimistic. The tragedy and riots in this recent time have caused a lot of pain and have brought up a lot of generational trauma, in particular, what black people feel, and I relate to that deeply… Black history is American History. All lives matter and that’s why Black Lives matter…This moment is bringing forth…an opportunity to address the things that have led us to this point. People’s minds are changing. Technology allows us to do more in a 24 hr period than we have ever been able to do, and people are seeing things, like the tragic execution of George Floyd on their phones and capturing it. They are able to see the things that people have been going through and dealing with, similar to…the Me Too movement. There is a real opportunity to look in the mirror, for those of us who may not understand our role in what is happening, and have a moral awakening as well, an elevation of our spiritual consciousness, if you will.”
In real estate, Fair Housing has been an ongoing, evolving subject over the last hundred years or so, beginning with the rights of Native Americans, then post Civil War African Americans and have been expanded over the years. “When the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was first enacted”, according to the Wikipedia entry, “it prohibited discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin. Gender was added as a protected characteristic in 1974. In 1988, disability and familial status (the presence or anticipated presence of children under 18 in a household) were added (further codified in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)…In 2017, a federal judge ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes under the Fair Housing Act. In a meeting on May 16, 2018 with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who was campaigning for his 16th term, said he believed that homeowners should be allowed to refuse to sell their home to gay and lesbian homebuyers. The NAR disagreed and withdrew its endorsement of the Congressman over the matter.”
Vincent Malta, President of the National Association of Realtors, said in a statement this week to Realtor members: “Our deepest sympathies are with the Floyd family and other families who understand and feel this pain and grief. Our neighbors in the communities where we work and live across America should feel safe and free from discrimination. As longtime champions of fair housing, equality and inclusion are among NAR’s most cherished values. NAR is committed to leading the way on policies that address racial injustice and that build safe and inclusive communities. Building the future begins with equal access to housing and opportunity for all. We appreciate all you do as REALTORS® to listen, learn, and work with others to be a part of the solution. As leaders in your communities, America’s 1.4 million REALTORS® are active participants in promoting equality, inclusion, and acceptance.”
This month, expanded Fair Housing laws within New York State have been enacted, including new disclosure regulations and the audio-video recording of Fair Housing continuing education. “Federal, State and Local Fair Housing Laws protect individuals from housing discrimination. It is unlawful to discriminate based on certain protected characteristics, which include, but are not limited to: race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, age, disability, marital status, lawful source of income or familial status.”
The following are some examples of potential Fair Housing Violations:
-Refusing to rent, sell or show a property based on a potential tenant or purchaser’s protected characteristic.
-Quoting a higher price to a purchaser or renter because of the potential purchaser or tenant’s protected characteristic.
-Refusing to rent to a tenant who has children or increasing a security deposit based on the number of children who will be living in the apartment.
-Steering prospective tenants or purchasers to certain neighborhoods based on any protected characteristics.
-Refusing to rent to a potential tenant because of their source of income, including but not limited to, Section 8 vouchers or other government subsidies.
-Refusing to waive a “no pet” policy for tenants that require a service, assistance or emotional support animal.
-Discriminating at the direction of a seller or landlord or because it is the preference of a seller or landlord.
-Refusing to rent to a renter who is a victim of domestic violence.
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” ~ Benjamin Franklin