September 24, 2020

Partner Profile: Eliminating Barriers to Housing in New York II

Earlier this year, Enterprise and New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced a grant for the Eliminating Barriers to Housing in New York (EBHNY) program. Through the program, Enterprise will oversee $4.5 million in grant funds over two years to six fair housing organizations across the state with the goal of eliminating systemic discrimination based on race, national origin, disability, source of income, and other federal, state and local protected classes. 

In this two-part series, we’re excited to share details about two of these organizations’ work and plans for the EBHNY funding. (Read the first installment here.)

Central New York Fair Housing (Syracuse, New York)  

Can you share a recent initiative your organization has undertaken that best highlights your mission?

CNY: CNY Fair Housing’s mission is to “eliminate housing discrimination, promote open communities, and ensure equal access to housing opportunity for all people in Central and Northern New York.” Gender discrimination including sexual harassment is a pervasive issue that undermines the tenets of our mission. Recently, there has been increased risk of sexual harassment due to COVID-19, thus we have increased our education efforts, including designing and publishing a new flyer on sexual harassment that will be available both online and in print. We have further been monitoring government activity to assure that proper protections are in place. A community in our area has recently passed a nuisance ordinance, which historically has a disparate impact on victims of domestic violence. Accordingly, we submitted formal written comments before the vote and are continuing to engage to ensure that this law does not result in discrimination.

What are CNY Fair Housing’s priorities for the EBNHY funds?

CNY: CNY Fair Housing is excited to receive the EBHNY funding because it will allow us to conduct systemic investigations based upon source of income throughout our service area, including several new counties we have added for this project. Source of income complaints have become one of our most frequently received complaints, particularly since New York State added source of income as a protection in 2019. Landlords have been developing various policies to attempt to subvert this law, and many tenants with vouchers are rightfully focused on using their voucher before it expires, so may not report the discrimination. In addition to complaint-based source of income work, we intend to conduct systemic investigations of source of income discrimination by large housing providers within our area.

As organizations have had to adapt and adjust priorities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, what has CNY Fair Housing been focusing on over the past few months? 

CNY: Since the pandemic, CNY Fair Housing has focused on educating our service area about the increased risks of discrimination based on national origin, sexual harassment, along with COVID-related tenants' rights and information. As it has not been possible to hold in-person events, we have expanded our social media presence through the hiring of a Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, who has made updates to our website, began a CNY Fair Housing Instagram, and increased our engagement on Facebook.

Given the ongoing protests challenging systemic racism and racial inequality across our country, how has your organization worked with race as a protected class, and how have your efforts to combat racial discrimination evolved?

CNY: Our work to dismantle systemic racism is three-fold, focusing on housing consumers, housing providers, and, as housing segregation was a direct result of intentional government policies, local, state, and federal governments. We investigate over 200 allegations of discrimination a year, many of which are based on or intersect with race. As such, we conduct both complaint-based and audit-based race testing in rentals, sales, insurance, and lending. Further, we regularly train housing providers in our service area about their fair housing obligations, including the ways that their implicit racism may result in discrimination based upon race. We also conduct regular trainings on the history of housing discrimination in our community which covers topics such as redlining, racial covenants, and urban renewal. Lastly, CNY Fair Housing engages with local and state governments in a variety of ways including commenting on proposed regulations or legislation, advocating for policies that improve housing opportunity, and evaluating their fair housing efforts.

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