The Suffolk County Human Rights Commission has ruled that an apartment complex in East Patchogue has illegally discriminated against people receiving housing benefits.
The decision was made because discrimination based on the way people get their income has become an increasingly important issue. Long Island Housing Services, a nonprofit that filed the discrimination complaint against the complex and released a copy of the commission’s decision on Thursday, also announced earlier this month that it had reached a settlement with a real estate agent in a bias case North Babylon have achieved through the source of income of prospective tenants.
In the East Patchogue case, the commission ordered the complex, identified as Greenbriar Luxury Apartments on Robinson Avenue, to accept housing aid, the ruling shows. In addition, the complex, real estate investment company Marbil Investors LLC, and the company’s owners, William J. Christie and Emmett Christie, must reimburse Bohemia-based Long Island Housing Services for their costs in order to “identify and counteract these discriminatory practices.” Decision shows.
LIHS calculated its cost at $ 23,855, said Ian Wilder, LIHS executive director. The group filed the complaint in 2016 after its testers were told that the complex was not accepting federal housing choice subsidies, also known as Section 8 coupons, the commission wrote.
The complex argued in its defense that it does not discriminate, that the federal program is voluntary and that the complex “is not allowed to participate” as the decision shows.
In fact, under county law, the commission wrote, “It is unlawful to refuse to rent to a person on the basis of that person’s lawful source of income.”
Prospective tenants have a right to housing “regardless of their source of income,” said Dawn Lott, executive director of the commission, in an interview.
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Marbil Investors and its owners did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. One woman who answered a phone number for Emmett Christie said, “He’s no longer connected to you.” Her attorney Stanley Somer did not respond to requests for comment.
Marbil sold the complex to Fairfield Properties in 2018, which was not named in the decision. A Fairfield representative said the company was “not involved in what happened to a property before it was owned and fully supports Fair Housing in all of its properties.” Under its previous owners, the complex’s sign identified it as Greenbrier Luxury Apartments.
Wilder said that source of income discrimination can be a subtle way of practicing prejudice based on race, disability, or other factors. In many cases he said, “it was open.” In other cases, potential tenants who use vouchers are falsely told that there are no apartments available, he said.
But that too is against the law, he said. “You can’t make pizzas and say, ‘Well, I didn’t know I had to follow these food safety rules.'”
In a separate case, LlHS reached an agreement with a North Babylonian brokerage firm, Coldwell Banker Easton Properties, over a complaint to the state human rights department alleging that the brokerage agency discriminated against those receiving housing benefits for people with disabilities, as well those who have § 8 coupons. The brokerage firm agreed to change its policies, train its staff, and reimburse the housing group for their costs, Wilder said. The brokerage firm paid the group $ 4,500 last month, he said.
This case arose out of a 2018 investigation by the New Highway Apartments group in Copiague, where an agreement was reached last year that included paying LIHS $ 10,000. Wilder said the group hired testers to inquire about apartments in the complex and the complex refused to rent to those who reported having coupons for Section 8 or subsidies for people with disabilities.
The North Babylon brokerage firm, the Copiague Complex and their attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
Starting in September, a new state law will require government agencies and nonprofits that administer housing benefits to notify recipients in writing of their fair housing rights, said Andrew Lieb, a Smithtown attorney who represents real estate agents and conducts fair housing training .
Lieb said enforcing fair housing has become a higher priority at the local, state and state levels, which he believes was sparked by Newsday’s Long Island Divided 2019 project, a three-year study of housing bias.
What you should know
- An apartment complex in Suffolk broke the law by refusing coupons under Section 8, a district commission ruled.
- In several cases, a brokerage company paid $ 4,500 and another complex paid $ 10,000 to resolve complaints about housing problems.
- Local and state laws prohibit discrimination based on legal sources of income such as coupons.
- The enforcement of fair living has become a higher priority at local, state and federal levels.
Maura McDermott covers residential real estate and other business news on Long Island.