There’s another kind of discrimination to watch out for – Bronx Times

Hello my Bronx folks, Pierina Sanchez, District 14 councilor here. We’re back again with “Sanchez Te Cuenta” (Sanchez informs you), my column in which, inspired by the day-to-day concerns of my constituents, I write about the issues affecting our city, from the perspective of a Bronx-based born and raised urban planner and legislator.

Last month, we talked about the Rental Guidelinesand the potential rent increases for a million households across the city and more than 200,000 households in the Bronx. Against many protests, including mine, the Rental Guidelines Council has since voted on one of the largest rent increases in a decade: 3.25% for one-year renewals and 5% for two-year renewals. While this is devastating news, we fight to give our neighbors the support they need to remain stable.

Today we will discuss a topic that many of us know well: CityFHEPs vouchers. I choose to talk about this because of the disturbing trend within my own community that is “source of income discrimination”. Let’s see this from above: follow me, in Sanchez Te Cuenta!

Around the end of October 2018, the city managed about seven different housing benefit programs. To streamline these programs and make them more accessible to New Yorkers, the City Council established the unique Family Homelessness & Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS) program. In the year after this important piece of legislation went into effect, our communities got feedback: hosts weren’t accepting their vouchers. Sounds familiar? I know.

Landlords, property owners and even real estate agents are notorious for turning down apartment applicants simply because the prospective residents would pay their rent through vouchers, be it CityFHEPs or Section 8. In my own community, more and more voters have been coming to me lately, refusing one landlord after the next to accept their vouchers. Some have even visited my office and asked, “Do you have a list of hosts that accept vouchers?”

When someone refuses to accept rental vouchers, it is called source of income (SOI) discrimination. SOI discrimination can also look like landlords increasing the advertised rent once you have applied, incessant demand to prove a job even with the vouchers, showing you a lower quality apartment when you discover you have vouchers or even refuse to include your Social Security income when determining eligibility for an apartment. Recently, I had to personally call a certain management company because I claimed their actions against my voter are discriminatory and threatened to file a complaint. If this has anything to do with you, my Bronx people, know that this city and state have mechanisms in place to hold these blatant actors accountable.

City, State, and Federal Governments protect and prosecute against income discrimination in rental markets† These are civil rights laws that stem from the Statutory Source of Income Non-Discrimination Act of 2019

Thanks to the great advocacy of the City Council this year budget negotiations, the city has restored its Source of Income Unit to the Human Rights Commission, meaning you can file a complaint through the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) and report anyone who refuses your vouchers or participates in STI discrimination . In addition, you can file a complaint with both the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Human Rights Department.

If you need help filling out a complaint, you can contact your municipal member. Not sure who it is? Call 311 or visit the municipality’s website www.council.nyc.gov/districts and enter your home address.

CityFHEPs vouchers come with some great incentives for property owners, such as receiving the first four months’ rent in advance, a 15% brokerage fee, and more. If you are a landlord or real estate agent, please contact a Home Support Specialist with the Public Engagement Unit at 929-221-0047 or visit http://nyc.gov/homesupportunit to discuss how to rent apartments with rental tools.

Questions from supporters:

You can send your questions to: [email protected] for a chance for us to comment and publish anonymously. When in doubt, Sanchez to Cuenta!

What if I am not sure if I am being discriminated against?

It’s hard to say sometimes, but if you have to ask, it probably is. I encourage you even more to contact the above entities or call your councilor.

What if my landlord says I have to pay extra?

Your landlord cannot ask you to pay more than the difference between the rent and what HRA pays. This is also illegal and you should report it immediately.

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