New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed into law new legislation that makes it possible for the state to revoke real estate licenses from agents and brokers who violate anti-discrimination laws.
Cuomo said New York has “zero tolerance” for discrimination of any kind and that the “sheer scope and breadth of the unscrupulous and discriminatory real estate practices uncovered on Long Island is repugnant to who we are.”
The Governor was referring to a November 2019 investigation conducted by Newsday that revealed how some real estate agents in the city were steering some clients towards certain neighborhoods and types of housing based on their race. Lawmakers in New York cited that investigation as the main reason for the new legislation.
Real Estate Board of New York President James Whelan said the law was important for the protection of clients. “All New Yorkers must have equal access and opportunity when searching for housing or commercial real estate,” he said in a statement.
“This law will provide teeth to the enforcement of New York's Human Rights Law and ensure that real estate agents cannot engage in racist practices like "steering" that deny families the dignity of choosing their home and neighborhood,” said Senator James Gaughran. “I thank Governor Cuomo for his swift singing of this bill into law."
But not everyone is happy with the Newsday investigation, with some brokerages questioning its findings. For example, Douglas Elliman reportedly said the report was “an unreliable, unethical and unscientific attempt to create a news story where there is none.”
Newsday’s report alleged that undercover testers found that Black home shoppers were treated differently almost half the time by real estate professionals in the state. Other minorities, such as Latinx and Asian shoppers, were also discriminated against, albeit less often, the report said.
New York authorities responded to the report by issuing subpoenas to 67 agents and firms cited in Newday’s investigation.