Fair House Choice in New York State

by Tanya Zwahlen

For the past eight weeks, we’ve been conducting public outreach for New York’s Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (or “AI,” for short). We’ve facilitated 17 public meetings, at least one in every region of the state, and we conducted 19 stakeholder interviews by phone. Our job has been to document stories of discrimination and hear about what New Yorkers think are impediments to fair housing.

What is Fair Housing?

Fair housing is an individual’s right, established by federal law nearly 50 years ago, to choose housing free from unlawful discrimination based on personal characteristics that have nothing to do with housing. The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, familial status (presence of children under age 18), color, national origin, religion, disability (physical or mental), or sex. The New York State Human Rights Law covers the same federal protections but also provides protection based on creed (religion), age, sexual orientation, marital status and military status.

What are Impediments to Fair Housing Choice?

As defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, impediments to fair housing choice include any actions, omissions, or decisions taken because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin which restrict housing choices or the availability of housing choices; and any actions, omissions, or decisions which have the *effect* of restricting housing choices or the availability of housing choices on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.

I’ve taken only one photograph while working on this project. That’s so unlike me. This is Watertown, New York on August 27th. This sign did a good job of attracting people to attend the public meeting.

I don’t have a lot to share regarding findings, because the study is underway. The AI will be published in October on the project web site, which is http://www.fairhousingmattersny.org.

My main reason for posting about this project at this stage is because the stories of discrimination have affected us deeply. Our office walls are filled with meeting notes describing landlords that won’t rent to families with children, or people of color, or people with mental disabilities. We are buried in accounts from across the state. It wasn’t until I started writing the summaries and compiling everything together that I realized how important this work is.

I wanted to share it.

I don’t have a lot to share regarding findings, because the study is underway. The AI will be published in October on the project web site, which is http://www.fairhousingmattersny.org.

My main reason for posting about this project at this stage is because the stories of discrimination have affected us deeply. Our office walls are filled with meeting notes describing landlords that won’t rent to families with children, or people of color, or people with mental disabilities. We are buried in accounts from across the state. It wasn’t until I started writing the summaries and compiling everything together that I realized how important this work is.

I wanted to share it.

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