Press Releases

Reps. Kathleen Rice, Nydia Velázquez, and Joaquin Castro Call on DOJ to Investigate Housing Discrimination on Long Island

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Washington, December 6, 2019 | comments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), and Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, sent a letter today to Eric Dreiband, the Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, asking him to immediately open an investigation into potential fair housing violations exposed in a recent Newsday report.

Using undercover testers as potential homebuyers, a three-year investigation conducted by Newsday found real estate agents associated with Long Island’s largest residential brokerage firms frequently steered white customers towards predominantly white neighborhoods, while directing minority buyers to more diverse neighborhoods.

Newsday's investigative reporting exposed pervasive housing discrimination against minority homebuyers across Long Island,” said Representative Rice. “This is not only deeply disturbing and morally reprehensible – it's also completely illegal. Clearly, the protections put in place under the Fair Housing Act are not being adequately enforced. And that has to change, not just on Long Island, but across the country. Newsday’s findings need to be investigated and those responsible for perpetuating these discriminatory practices must be held accountable.”

“The discriminatory, and potentially, illegal actions uncovered by Newsday make clear that racial housing discrimination is, sadly, alive and well on Long Island and, likely, in other parts of the country,” said Representative Velázquez. “If these egregious patterns are not investigated, the federal government would be turning a blind eye to residential segregation and sending a message that we don’t take our Fair Housing laws seriously. DOJ must undertake an immediate investigation into the actions of these real estate agents, not only to root out these practices on Long Island, but also to make clear such illegal, abusive practices will not be tolerated, anywhere in our country.”

“Prejudiced actions by real estate agents – like those in Long Island – are contributing factors to the housing discrimination and segregation we continue to see across the United States,” said CHC Chairman Castro. “The Department of Justice must open an investigation into how these practices deny civil rights and reinforce segregation in our communities. We must do everything in our power to break the cycles inequality and ensure that every person, no matter the color of their skin, has the same opportunities to succeed.”

The findings in the Newsday report suggest that these real estate agents have been perpetuating residential segregation and convey a disturbing pattern of racial separation throughout the region. Evidence gathered through paired testing — which is consistently endorsed by federal and state courts as the only viable method for detecting violations of fair housing laws by real estate agents — found disparate treatment against black testers 49 percent of the time, against Hispanic testers 39 percent of the time, and against Asian testers 19 percent of the time.

The letter was signed by more than a dozen Members of Congress and was also sent to New York State Attorney General Letitia James and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

The full letter can be found here.



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