New Fair Housing Litigation Unit will use “secret shoppers” to test the housing market for discrimination and hold bad actors accountable. On January 7, 2020, the Office of the Mayor released the Where We Live NYC Draft Plan for public review. Where We Live NYC is a comprehensive plan to advance opportunity for New Yorkers by promoting fair housing and undo intentional policies and practices of segregation and inequity. The Draft Plan analyzes the state of the City’s fair housing and lays out a five-year action plan. New Yorkers can visit the Where We Live NYC website to read the plan and offer feedback to shape the final report here.
The Plan was created through an inclusive, collaborative, and comprehensive effort to better understand fair housing challenges. The City worked with partners to learn directly from more than 700 residents across the five boroughs through sixty-two focus-group-style conversations in fifteen different languages. Additionally, the City worked with a fair housing stakeholder group comprising of more than 150 community-based organizations, researchers, and policy advocates. New Yorkers were also asked to participate by sharing input on the Where We Live NYC website, participating in events, and hosting a conversation in their own community.
Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) worked with more than 30 government partners to evaluate existing policies and initiatives in order to design new, impactful policy solutions.
The Plan includes the following key goals and strategies:
- Expand resources to combat persistent housing discrimination, including a new dedicated unit to test for and pursue proactive cases against housing discrimination and new protections for justice-involved New Yorkers and New Yorkers who use housing vouchers.
- Support housing development throughout the city and region, by expediting the creation of more affordable housing for low-income households and exploring zoning, land use, and other regulatory actions that will promote growth more broadly across the five boroughs.
- Preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement of long-standing residents, through improving the quality of the city’s existing housing stock, particularly the 170,000 homes managed by NYCHA and expanding resources that protect tenants and homeowners against the threats of harassment, eviction, fraud, and scams.
- Empower New Yorkers who use housing vouchers with more choice, by expanding the number of homes available to New Yorkers who receive rental assistance benefits and improving voucher holders’ and landlords’ experiences with the City.
- Create more independent and integrated living options for people with disabilities, by leveraging the resources of the healthcare sector and expanding programs that assist people with disabilities to obtain renovations to accommodate their physical needs.
- Make equitable investments and change policies to support neighborhoods suffering from historic disinvestment through thoughtful decision-making and community engagement. The City will invest in increased wealth-building opportunities, improved public transit, and expanded diversity in public schools, among other initiatives.
The City will host a citywide listening tour to continue the collaborative public engagement that has driven the Plan’s two-year planning process. The tour will feature three to four-day exhibit installations that outline the process and draft plan. Residents will have a chance to learn and discuss the history of fair housing, explore data on diversity and opportunity in the City, and share feedback on the strategies outlined in the draft plan to address discrimination, segregation, and equity in opportunity.
The City hosted a Where We Live NYC Listening Tour Opening Reception on January 8, 2020 at the Abrons Art Center in Manhattan to launch the draft review process. Participants met with City representatives to ask questions, share feedback, and experience an interactive Where We Live NYC exhibit.
On February 6, 2020, the City will hold a public hearing where members of the public can provide formal, on-the-record comment on the draft. The hearing will be held from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in the City Planning Commission Hearing Room, Lower Concourse, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.
To further root out discrimination in the housing market, the City is launching the Fair Housing Litigation Unit to bring cases against owners and brokers who discriminate based on race, disability and source of income. The unit will be comprised of researchers, lawyers, and market testers who will go into the community as “secret shoppers” and identify discriminatory practices. The Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants will closely supervise the work of this unit to ensure it is delivering for New Yorkers. The Fair Housing Litigation Unit will:
- Use data analysis and targeting to identity portfolios where the owner or broker is discriminating based on race, disability or source of income
- Bring affirmative litigation cases to court to hold bad actors accountable
- Build new case law to deepen efforts to further fair housing
- Educate brokers and owners on the consequences of discrimination
Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “As the Trump Administration rolls back protections against housing discrimination, we are stepping up to ensure that the doors of opportunity are open to every New Yorker and those who discriminate are held accountable. Across the country, Americans are living with the legacy of segregation. In New York City, we’re charting a path forward to continue to make New York the fairest big city in America.”
HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll stated, “Where We Live NYC is a sweeping fair housing plan that will guide the City’s bold and transformative efforts to dismantle the legacy of segregation and discrimination that stand in the way of opportunity for many people in our communities. Throughout this process we’ve worked hand in hand with New Yorkers to make sure that their voices were heard, and we’re releasing this draft to fine-tune what we’ve done so far, solidifying our next steps to make this city a more fair and just place to live for everyone.”
By: Laine Vitkevich (Laine is a CityLaw Intern and New York Law School student, Class of 2020)