Westchester Real Estate Brokers To End Racial Discrimination
Attorney General Spitzer today announced the filing of consent decrees in federal court in White Plains involving two Westchester real estate brokerage agencies alleged to have discriminated on the basis of race and ethnicity against individuals seeking to rent apartments in primarily white Westchester neighborhoods.
The consent decrees will require the agencies and their employees to undergo training and maintain records which will be used to test their compliance with federal, state, and local fair housing laws in the provision of brokerage services.
"This agreement should alert real estate brokers that discriminatory practices will not be tolerated, Spitzer said. "It is illegal for real estate brokers to systematically exclude people from the rental housing market based on their race, color or ethnicity. Such practices perpetuate segregated housing and deprive persons of all races of the chance to live in integrated communities with better schools, employment prospects and public services."
Spitzers investigation focused on how real estate agents treated minorities seeking to rent apartments in Eastchester, as well as Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, and Hastings-on-Hudson (often collectively referred to as "the Rivertowns").
Spitzers office supervised a series of tests conducted by Westchester Residential Opportunities (WRO), a non-profit organization that focuses on eliminating housing discrimination. In each test, a white tester and a minority tester contacted the real estate agency and expressed interest in renting an apartment in Eastchester or the Rivertowns. Each tester sought the same type of apartment in the same price range. The paired testers were provided with comparable financial profiles so that they would be viewed as equally qualified to rent. Spitzers office then compared how the real estate agents treated each of the paired testers.
The tests revealed that the two real estate agencies consistently treated the minority testers differently. The discriminatory practices included refusing to show minorities available apartments that were shown to whites; denying the availability of apartments to minorities while showing the same apartments to whites; steering and encouraging minorities to live in more racially mixed communities; failing to provide minorities with full and complete information about the availability of apartments; and showing minorities fewer apartments matching the testers expressed criteria.
After the Attorney General contacted the two agencies, Patricia Forgiones Realty Network, Inc. and Greentree Realty and Relocation Company, Inc., and informed them of the test results, the agencies agreed to reform their practices and enter into consent decrees to be filed in federal court. The consent decrees require the agencies to:
- Ensure that all real estate agents receive training covering the requirements of federal, state, and local fair housing laws;
- Maintain records that will allow the Attorney General to verify future compliance with fair housing laws;
- Display the Equal Opportunity logo in future advertisements; and
- Remain subject to a federal courts jurisdiction for at least three years.
The two agencies also agreed to pay to cover damages, attorneys fees, and the costs of the investigation. Forgiones will pay $30,000, and Greentree, a substantially smaller entity, will pay $7,500. The Attorney General acknowledges both agencies willingness to resolve these matters promptly and correct their discriminatory practices.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jeffrey K. Powell and Lourdes M. Ventura of the Civil Rights Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Natalie R. Williams, Bureau Chief Dennis D. Parker, and Gary S. Brown, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Westchester Regional Office.
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