MetroFocus

FAIR HOUSING FIGHT

Transcript

>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
STATE LAWMAKERS ARE TAKING A
HARD LOOK AT HOUSING
DISCRIMINATION ON LONG ISLAND.
THE SCRUTINY COMES AFTER A NEWS
DAY SPECIAL INVESTIGATION THAT
FOUND EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD
UNEQUAL TREATMENT OF POTENTIAL
HOME BUYERS ON THE PART OF REAL
ESTATE AGENTS.
AN INVESTIGATION WE FEATURED
HERE YESTERDAY.
THE THREE YEAR EXPOSE USED
UNDERCOVER TESTERS TO RECORD
INTERACTIONS BETWEEN HOME BUYERS
AND AGENTS FOUND AGENTS STEERED
MINORITY HOME BUYERS TOWARDS
INTEGRATED NEIGHBORHOODS WHILE
STEERING WHITE HOME BUYERS
TOWARDS WHITE NEIGHBORHOODS.
AS A RESULT OF THE EXPOSE, THE
STATE SENATE, THE STATE ATTORNEY
GENERAL AND THE GOVERNOR HAVE
ORDERED PROBES INTO REPORTS OF
HOUSING DISCRIMINATION.
THE EXECUTIVES HAVE ANNOUNCED
THEIR PLANS TO COMBAT THE
PROBLEM.
JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE
FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATION
AND WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NEXT IS
ELAINE GROSS.
SHE'S THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT
OF A ERASE RACISM, A CIVIL
RIGHTSADVOCACY GROUP.
WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU.
>> FIRST OF ALL, WAS THERE
ANYTHING IN THE INVESTIGATION
THAT SURPRISED YOU?
>> NO, THERE WASN'T.
IN PART BECAUSE WE HAVE DONE
INVESTIGATIONS LIKE THAT WITH
TESTING.
IN OUR CASE, IT WAS RENTAL.
BUT WE HAD SIMILAR RESPONSES
WHERE THE REAL ESTATE AGENTS
WOULD TREAT THE -- IN OUR CASE
AFRICAN-AMERICAN TESTERS
DIFFERENTLY FROM THE WHITE
TESTERS.
TELL THE AFRICAN-AMERICANS THAT
THERE WAS NO AVAILABILITY FOR
RENTALS AND THEN THE WHITE
TESTERS, THEY WOULD GLADLY SHOW
THEM THE VACANCIES.
>> THAT'S WHAT YOU FOUND ALSO.
AN INVESTIGATION YOU CONDUCTED
IN 2012, WHICH LED TO --
>> TO TWO SUCCESSFUL LAWSUITS.
ONE WAS IN NASSAU COUNTY.
THAT WAS 2014.
THE OTHER WAS COMACK, THAT WAS
2016.
>> YOU RECENTLY TESTIFIED BEFORE
A SENATE HEARING.
IT WAS CONVENED AFTER THE
INVESTIGATION TO DEAL WITH THIS
ISSUE.
THERE'S A MOMENT IN YOUR
TESTIMONY WHERE YOU MADE IT
CLEAR THAT THIS IS VERY
PERSONAL.
HOW IS IT PERSONAL FOR YOU?
>> WELL, IT'S PERSONAL BECAUSE I
WASN'T LIVING IN NEW YORK AT THE
TIME.
I WAS IN MASSACHUSETTS.
BUT I WAS DISCRIMINATED.
I WAS AT THAT TIME LOOKING FOR
AN APARTMENT.
THE AGENT WAS VERY NICE TO ME
AND TOLD ME, THE APARTMENT THAT
I WAS INTERESTED IN HAD BEEN
TAKEN.
HE OFFERED TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS
FOR ME TO SEE ANOTHER APARTMENT.
WHEN I WENT THE NEXT DAY TO SEE
THE OTHER APARTMENT, IT WAS MORE
EXPENSIVE AND I SAW THAT IT HAD
VERMIN.
I FOUND OUT BECAUSE A WHITE
PERSON INQUIRED AFTERWARDS AND
WAS TOLD THAT IT WAS AVAILABLE.
HE THEN GAVE ME -- I CHALLENGED
HIM.
HE GAVE ME SOME COCK AND BULL
STORY.
>> THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST
SINISTER ASPECTS OF THIS IS THAT
THE VICTIM SELDOM REALIZES HE OR
SHE IS BEING DISCRIMINATED
AGAINST.
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
MOST PEOPLE WOULD NEVER KNOW.
YOU TAKE THE WORD OF THE AGENT.
THE AGENT SAYS THAT I DON'T HAVE
THAT, BUT I HAVE THIS, YOU
THINK, OKAY, THEY ARE TRYING TO
ACCOMMODATE ME.
BUT IT'S DEVASTATING.
AND IT WAS NOT ONLY PERSONALLY
DEVASTATING BUT THE FACT THAT
THEY WERE GOING TO CHARGE ME
MORE IN ANOTHER BUILDING AND I
SAW THE LITTLE CREATURES RUNNING
AROUND --
>> YOUR ORGANIZATION, ERASE
RACISM, AND THE FAIR HOUSING
JUSTICE CENTER ISSUED A FIVE
POINT PLAN TO ADDRESS HOUSING
DISCRIMINATION ON LONG ISLAND IN
CONJUNCTION WITH THIS EXPOSE.
FOR THE SAKE OF TIME, CAN YOU
BRIEFLY SUMMARIZE THE FIVE
POINTS OR GIVE US THE KEY POINTS
THAT YOU ARE PROPOSING?
>> CERTAINLY, WE TALKED ABOUT
THE LICENSING PROCESS FOR
AGENTS.
AND THESE ARE THE GATEKEEPERS TO
THE COMMUNITIES.
AND RIGHT NOW, OUR SYSTEM IS
BROKEN.
IF YOU TRY TO FIND AN AGENT WHO
HAS LOST THEIR LICENSE, YOU
KNOW, YOU WON'T FIND MUCH
BECAUSE THE DEPARTMENT OF
LICENSING SERVICES REALLY HASN'T
BEEN DOING ANYTHING.
AND THERE'S NO EXPLANATION FOR
THIS.
SO THAT SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE
FIXED.
ALSO, THERE IS THE SYSTEM OF
FAIR HOUSING ENFORCEMENT, WHICH
IS A DIFFERENT AGENCY.
THAT'S A DIVISION OF HUMAN
RIGHTS.
AND THEY DO NOT HAVE A ROBUST
SYSTEM OF ENFORCEMENT.
A LOT OF CASES ARE DISMISSED, NO
PROBABLE CAUSE.
>> FOR THE SAKE OF TIME, LET ME
INTERRUPT AND ADDRESS THAT.
BECAUSE CLEARLY THE
INVESTIGATION -- I HAD A
DISCUSSION WITH AN INDIVIDUAL
WHO DIRECTED IT.
IT WAS CLEARLY VERY, VERY
EXPENSIVE TO CONDUCT FOR A
NEWSPAPER TO DO IT.
BUT IF LAW ENFORCEMENT HAD THE
CAPACITY, HAD THE RESOURCES TO
CONDUCT CONSISTENT AND
SYSTEMATIC PAIRING, TESTING ALL
THE TIME AND REAL ESTATE AGENTS
KNEW IT WAS COMING, WOULDN'T
THAT GO A LONG WAY IN SOLVING
THE PROBLEM?
>> ABSOLUTELY.
RIGHT NOW, IF YOU ARE A REAL
ESTATE AGENTS, YOU KNOW THAT YOU
WON'T -- VERY LIKELY, YOU WON'T
GET CAUGHT.
EVEN IF YOU DO, I BELIEVE THE
HIGHEST FINE IS LIKE $1,000.
WHICH IS NOT MUCH MORE THAN A
SLAP ON THE WRIST.
SO IT DOES MATTER THAT WE DON'T
HAVE THE ROBUST EITHER
ENFORCEMENT AROUND REALTORS AND
THEIR BEHAVIOR OR THE FAIR
HOUSING ENFORCEMENT WHICH WOULD
HELP INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN
DISCRIMINATED AGAINST.
AT THE ROOT OF ALL OF THIS IS
THE NEED FOR SYSTEMATIC PAIR
TESTING.
BECAUSE THAT'S THE WAY TO REALLY
ROOT OUT WHO IS DOING THE
DISCRIMINAING BECAUSE ALL OF
THE VICTIMS DON'T KNOW.
>> YOU HAVE BEEN CRITICAL OF THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ABOUT WHAT
THEY HAVE DONE OR WHAT THEY
HAVEN'T DONE.
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT IS THAT
YOU ARE -- WHAT'S THE
GRIEVANCES?
>> HUD IS MANDATED BY CONGRESS
TO ACTUALLY ENFORCE THE FAIR
HOUSING STATUTE.
WHEN THE FAIR HOUSING LAW TOOK
PLACE IN 1968, THEY NOT ONLY
TOLD HUD TO DEAL WITH HELPING
PEOPLE GET REDRESS WHEN THEY
HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST,
BUT THEY SAID, YOU NEED TO FIND
WAYS TO AFFIRMATIVELY FURTHER
FAIR HOUSING, TO IDENTIFY THE
IMPEDIMENTS TO HOUSING
INTEGRATION AND TO ADDRESS THOSE
ISSUES.
>> THEY'RE NOT DOING THAT?
>> THEY'RE NOT DOING THAT.
THE HOOK WAS THAT MUNICIPALITIES
WOULD NOT GET FUNDING, WHICH
THEY ALL WANT, WHICH THEY ALL
GET.
THEY WOULD NOT GET THAT FUNDING
UNLESS THEY HAD EVIDENCE THAT
THEY WERE AFFIRMATIVELY
FURTHERING FAIR HOUSING.
AND SO THE COMBINATION OF THE
MUNICIPALITIES NOT DOING WHAT
THEY ARE DOING, THE STATE
GOVERNMENT ENFORCEMENT OF FAIR
HOUSING AND THE STATE GOVERNMENT
LICENSING NOT WORKING WELL, WE
HAVE A SITUATION WHERE THERE IS
NO JUSTICE.
>> AT THIS VERY MOMENT, BECAUSE
OF THE EXPOSE LARGELY, THERE'S A
FOCUS ON THIS ISSUE.
WHAT'S YOUR GUT FEELING?
IS THIS A TIPPING POINT?
IS THIS ISSUE GOING TO BE
SERIOUSLY ADDRESSED, AT LEAST IN
LONG ISLAND?
>> I DO FEEL THAT SOMETHING IS
HAPPENING.
WHEN YOU HAVE SO MUCH ATTENTION
AND PEOPLE TRYING -- TRYING TO
COME UP WITH STRATEGIES TO DEAL
WITH THEIR END OF THINGS, I FEEL
OPTIMISTIC THAT WE MIGHT BE AT A
POINT WHERE THINGS WILL REALLY
TAKE A TURN FOR THE BEST.
>> ALL RIGHT.
ELAINE, WE ARE COUNTING ON YOU
TO LET US KNOW IF THAT IS
HAPPENING.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US
TODAY.


URL: https://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/2019/12/fair-housing-fight/