Following an investigation that uncovered potential evidence of housing discrimination on the popular Craigslist web site, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer on Tuesday wrote a letter to New York City’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) requesting it provide information on how it plans to investigate ‘source-of-income’ discrimination by landlords online and the steps taken to protect tenants.
In the letter, Stringer cited several web postings in which landlords indicated that vouchers or rental assistance, such as the recently-enacted Living in Communities (LINC) program to help homeless individuals and families move out of shelters and into stable housing, were unacceptable forms of payment.
The postings are in violation of the City’s Human Rights Law, which bar discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status or status as a victim of domestic violence, and, since 2008, “any lawful source of income,” he noted.
“These ads suggest ‘no voucher holders need apply,’ echoing generations of discrimination against New Yorker’s most vulnerable citizens,” Comptroller Stringer said.
Craigslist.org cannot be held legally accountable for what landlords request. So the comptroller is calling on accountability from the city to serve as a watchdog over unabated housing discrimination, already a growing problem in Brooklyn and across New York City.
“The Commission on Human Rights has a mandate to uncover and investigate discrimination and must do all within its power to enforce our City’s laws,” Stringer said. “With 58,000 people staying in our shelters every night, it is imperative that we use every tool to get New Yorkers into long-term housing.”
Stringer recommended CCHR explore using technologies that can automatically scan real estate listings to flag potentially illegal conduct, similar to Google’s technology that flags content on YouTube that potentially violates copyright law.
“In the most diverse City in the world, it is unconscionable that unscrupulous landlords can get away with using modern communications to turn back the clock on fair treatment,” he said. “Today, I am calling on the City’s Commission on Human Rights to redouble its efforts to eliminate these discriminatory practices and disclose what it has done to proactively find, stop and punish those who have broken the law.”
To read the letter, click here.