Discrimination in RE Brokerage

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Bill would let state revoke brokers’ licences for discrimination
Lawmakers near finish line for measure sparked by Newday investigation

The state would get the power to suspend or revoke the license of real estate agents under a new bill targeting discriminatory practices.
The Senate approved the bill overwhelmingly Wednesday, 59 votes to 1. The Assembly is expected to pass it today.
The bill was sparked by a 2019 Newsday investigation that revealed widespread race discrimination in Long Island’s housing market, including agents steering buyers to certain neighborhoods based on their race.
The bill’s passage comes as the real estate industry is reckoning with its record on race and diversity, with several brokerage chiefs vowing to implement change.
Currently, the state can suspend or revoke licenses or issue fines for certain infractions, including misleading advertising and fraud. The new bill would add “violation of the human rights law” to that list.

“This legislation will ensure that real estate agents who violate New York’s Human Rights Law by ‘steering’ minority families toward certain communities, or other racist practices that deny individuals the dignity of choosing their home and neighborhood, face license revocation,” the lead sponsor of the bill, Long Island Democrat James Gaughran, said in a statement.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Redfin vowed more support for minority employees, but not everyone believes it will deliver
Former agents found statements from CEO Glenn Kelman disingenuous based on their own experiences

When Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman blogged about the brokerage’s pledge to fight racism, the move backfired.

Some former agents and employees saw his remarks as disingenuous, based on their own experiences at the national firm.

“Anybody who actually wants to impact Redfin and its culture for the better, my experience told me you won’t make it very far,” said Sam Tammareddi, who worked as a listings coordinator at Redfin’s headquarters in Seattle.
She and others took to LinkedIn over the past two months to call out what they felt was unfair treatment at the publicly traded company.

“Anybody who actually wants to impact Redfin and its culture for the better, my experience told me you won’t make it very far.”
Sam Tammareddi, former Redfin listings coordinator
In interviews with The Real Deal, four former employees described hiring decisions based on nepotism, a general lack of diversity among senior leaders and furloughs and layoffs they believed disproportionately impacted minority employees. Some of the former Redfin employees said they felt overlooked for promotions and other opportunities at the company.

“They kept on saying how much they value diversity,” said one former broker who worked at Redfin’s Boston office. He added, regarding that office: “Why are there no minorities in a management position whatsoever?” A Redfin spokesperson disputed this, adding that an African American manager worked at the Boston office until recently, when he was promoted to market manager in Rhode Island.

In his May 31 blog post, Kelman recognized that the brokerage hadn’t done enough to support minorities it hired. “The most obvious thing is hiring and developing more people of color to positions of power,” he wrote. “We say that we believe talent is equally distributed between people of different races, but most businesses, including Redfin, are run mostly by white people.”

According to an internal Redfin analysis, the percentage of its employees of color has inched up to 31 percent from 30 percent over the past two years. But only 8 percent of the company’s employees are Black.
In an interview with TRD in July, Kelman commented on some of the criticism from former employees, though he wouldn’t discuss specific people.

“It’s a failure of the company whenever someone feels that he or she was unfairly treated,” he said. “Anyone running an organization has to try to discern what actually happened. I should spend a significant amount of my time being accountable to those people.”

“An asymmetrical outcome”
Former employees of the Boston and Seattle offices said friends and relatives of managers were hired at the firm, which they viewed as part of a broader pattern of Redfin executives tapping into their personal networks for talent.

Kelman confirmed that the sister of the market manager in Redfin’s Boston office works for the company, but said the two report to different people. He said he views that and the fact that “a huge number of agents” have parents and children who also work as Redfin agents as a “testament that it’s a good place to work.”

At one point, however, a market manager in Boston hired a few relatives.
“We did think that was not good management practice,” Kelman said, noting that the manager left the company about eight years ago.
When Redfin temporarily cut nearly two dozen employees in its Boston office, all but one person of color was let go, one former agent wrote on LinkedIn.

“All management were white males, no one of color, and all the agents that were kept during the layoffs were white with the exception of one,” Stone Prum alleged in the post. According to his LinkedIn profile, he left Redfin in April and now works at Compass. Prum declined to comment for this article.

The Redfin spokesperson said the African-American manager and a female manager were at Redfin at the time.
According to Redfin, of the 22 who were furloughed in Boston, 17 were white. A spokesperson for the firm said all the furloughed employees have since returned.

Redfin, like many residential brokerages, was hit hard by the pandemic. In April the firm cut its staff by 7 percent and furloughed 41 percent of its total agents. The company offered its furloughed agents the option to take a severance package instead of waiting to return.

The spokesperson said that existing agents in several markets took over for those who were furloughed or who had opted to leave the company permanently.
Riode Jean-Felix, one of the agents who left Redfin’s Boston office, opted for a severance package rather than a temporary furlough, according to the firm, and now also works for Compass. In a social media post, he said his coverage area was taken over by a white agent who didn’t have the same market experience.

“Redfin, to me, was my family and I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the company even with a lack of diversity which I tried to change,” Jean-Felix wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “How much more pain and disappointment can be added on to an open wound,” he questioned. Jean-Felix declined to comment further.

Kelman said the layoffs and furloughs were certified by an analyst to ensure that there was no “statistically significant evidence of bias.” But, in retrospect, offering former staffers the option of a severance package “really hurt” Redfin.

“You will have people who have fewer resources choose that because it’s in many cases tens of thousands of dollars, depending how long they’ve been here,” Kelman noted. “That’s when we saw an asymmetrical outcome. If you’re a manager who really cares about diversity, and I count myself as one of them, that drives you crazy.”

“Aim lower”
Tammareddi, who worked at Redfin for a year and a half before leaving in January 2019, said she discussed her career goals with one of the firm’s market managers in 2018. She expressed interest in a senior support manager role and the firm’s program management team.

When Tammareddi said she was eyeing these higher positions, she recalled, he told her she was being “too aggressive” and to “aim lower.”
“Telling candidates of color, in particular, that you have to move to Seattle has been fraught, because we don’t have as many Black people in Seattle as we should.”
Glenn Kelman, Redfin
Despite having five letters of recommendation written by internal references, Tammareddi said her application for the senior support manager position wasn’t taken seriously, and she was given a “courtesy” 15-minute interview with a recruiter. She felt that she was overqualified for the role.

“If you are an ambitious, driven and determined woman and a person of color at Redfin,” she said, “my experience was that management equates that to being aggressive, even if you are overqualified for the position.”
Tammareddi ultimately left, she said, because she felt certain managers were trying to get her fired and that she had a “target on [her] back for being an outspoken woman of color.” Those managers weren’t her direct supervisors but had been monitoring her use of time, she alleged.

Another former agent who worked at Redfin’s headquarters, who asked to remain anonymous, said after a decade with the firm, he applied for a market manager position. The agent, who is white, said he was granted a 15-minute Zoom interview, but it was clear to him that the company had hand-picked someone for the role before they began the official interviewing process.
He said he noticed a shift in the company’s culture after its initial public offering in 2017 and found there was less of an emphasis placed on helping agents grow. “It was very progressive and forward thinking,” he said. “Post-IPO, it was just essentially profit and shareholder driven.”
Kelman, who acknowledged that he didn’t speak to the former employees who spoke to TRD, said people at Redfin and other companies tend to “hire who they know” and draw from their social networks, which “doesn’t reinforce diversity.”
He said the company now keeps positions open for three months exclusively for candidates of color. A big challenge in diversifying Redfin, Kelman said, is bridging the gap between the agent side of the business and the higher-paying corporate roles at the company’s Seattle headquarters.
“We have to be really good at developing business skills that you don’t develop as an agent,” he said, “whether it’s writing software, whether it’s learning an income statement, whether it’s understanding statistical significance and analytics.”
But that comes at a cost for some employees.
“Telling candidates of color, in particular, that you have to move to Seattle has been fraught, because we don’t have as many Black people in Seattle as we should,” Kelman noted. “So we’re hopeful that there will be more cross-pollination, that there will be more opportunity, that there will be more mobility.”
Cynthia Wu, a former recruiter at Redfin who now works for Google, said she’s hopeful that the brokerage will deliver on its diversity goals.
She noted, however, that when she was starting out at Redfin a higher up pulled her aside and told her she was being “too aggressive” in a meeting. While she said that experience somewhat “dampened” how she approached her job, Wu described her experience at the company as a positive one.
“The only people who got ‘managed out’/let go/fired in my org were people of color. All had received consistent feedback about their personalities, attitudes, and communication style not meshing.”
Jay Bergeron, former Redfin product designer

She added that managers were intricately involved in the hiring process, which is typically ideal from a recruiter perspective but sometimes led to “overlooking candidates who have a non-traditional background.”
“Coded language”
Jay Bergeron, who worked as a product designer at Redfin’s Seattle headquarters for nearly two years, noted in a LinkedIn post that he had a mostly positive experience at the company. He also provided several recommendations for the firm to meet its diversity goals.
“Hold managers and executives accountable for the hiring, promotion, and retention for women and people of color in the company,” Bergeron wrote.
“During my time the only people who got ‘managed out’/let go/fired in my org were people of color. All had received consistent feedback about their personalities, attitudes, and communication style not meshing,” he added. “This is coded language.”
In response on LinkedIn, a Redfin executive said all managers are receiving inclusivity training this year, and the company is basing a significant portion of next year’s executive bonuses on increasing the company’s diversity.
But Tammareddi criticized the bonuses for senior managers.
“So, as a brown woman, I have a price tag on my head at Redfin, and execs make money off my employment,” she said.
Kelman said he was “puzzled” by Tammareddi’s criticism. And while he thinks the executive bonuses will be effective, he added, the company’s ready to “try something else” if not.
“We have to drive revenue growth, we have to drive profit,” Kelman said. “It’s the only way to sustain the business, but we also are not going to build a sustainable business or one that we’re proud of if we only recruit white real estate agents or white software engineers.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Zumper systematically screened out low-income renters: report
Explosive report accuses VC-backed firm of routine discrimination

Zumper, a rental platform backed by Kleiner Perkins and the Blackstone Group, may have systematically prevented thousands of low-income renters from finding apartments on its platform, according to a report.
According to Business Insider, the San Francisco-based startup reportedly instructed employees to screen for tenants who received Section 8 housing vouchers and automatically disqualified those who inquired about available units. The firm labeled those renters “unserviceable,” according to the report.

Zumper categorically denied the allegations, with a spokesperson telling BI that “discrimination of any kind has never been tolerated.” The spokesperson said that applicants may have been disqualified based on “credit requirement or their budget.”
Since 2012, Zumper has raised $150 million to build an “end-to-end’ marketplace for rentals. Most recently, it closed a $60 million round of Series D funding in March 2020. Investors include Greycroft, Kleiner Perkins and Axel Springer, along with real estate players Blackstone Group, DivcoWest and Marcus & Millichap.

Multiple sources told Business Insider that discriminatory practices stemmed from Zumper Select, a rental brokerage that launched in 2017. To provide leads to agents in New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Denver, Zumper created filters on its website to screen prospects and develop a pipeline of deals.

Several sources who worked on Zumper’s renter qualification team, which vetted prospects, said managers told them to dismiss Section 8 candidates. “They told us to email the tenant back and say, ‘We don’t have any inventory that matches your criteria,’” one source said. Zumper’s customer relationship manager automatically screened out some renters before they were ever vetted.

A former manager told Business Insider they brought their concerns to high-level executives, and in 2018 or 2019, the company discontinued the automated screening. A spokesperson confirmed Zumper Select “is no longer part” of the company’s business.

Discriminating against renters who use Section 8 vouchers is illegal in many major markets, including New York and Chicago. But the pattern of prejudice in the industry remains widespread. A 2019 probe by Newsday found widespread bias among Long Island real estate brokers who steered minority buyers to certain neighborhoods.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
State Senate hearing confronts racial bias by brokers
Various measures aim to curb discrimination in home-shopping

Ten months after a Newsday investigation reminded New Yorkers that minority home-shoppers still face bias from real estate brokers, the state Senate will convene a hearing tomorrow on what to do about it.
One problem: The paired testing of 93 agents that exposed their differing treatment of Black, Latino and Asian shoppers is expensive, and state revenues have collapsed because of the pandemic.

However, one thing that Levittown state Sen. Kevin Thomas wants from the brokerage community would not cost anything: “I would like an apology,” he told Newsday.

He was referring to the investigation’s finding that 49 percent of Black homebuyers were discriminated against by brokers, as were 39 percent of Latino shoppers and 19 percent of Asians.

Typically, that meant minorities were steered to minority neighborhoods or subjected to more stringent requirements than white buyers, such as having to produce a pre-approved mortgage application in order to see a home for sale. All are violations of fair housing laws.

State legislators have already passed one bill in response to the newspaper’s probe. The measure, approved in July, allows the state to suspend or revoke the license of real estate agents who discriminate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law.

Other bills introduced to address the issue, according to Newsday, would mandate six hours of fair housing training for agents every two years, up from the current three hours; require the state attorney general to do paired testing annually; compel state legislators to agencies to reduce segregation; allow damages for victims of housing discrimination; and subject violators to additional penalties in bias cases brought by the attorney general.

It is not clear if brokers will apologize at the Senate hearing, but the industry has been largely supportive of efforts to reduce discrimination since the exposé was published. The Long Island Board of Realtors has beefed up its anti-discrimination training efforts, offered agents additional educational resources, created a diversity committee and strengthened ties to fair-housing groups, the trade group told Newsday.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

CoreLogic’s screening algorithm may have discriminated against renters: lawsuit
Federal suit alleges the data firm, not the landlord, is to blame for the program’s discriminatory outcome

A federal lawsuit can proceed against a screening company used by a landlord to weed out tenants, a move that may have violated fair housing laws.
The lawsuit blames CoreLogic, the company that did the screening, rather than the landlord who hired the firm, The Markup reported.

The case could impact who is held responsible for the misdeeds of technology used in property management. Tenant advocates have argued that algorithms replicate human biases — meaning that algorithms can carry out the same racial discrimination that humans are prone to. The systems to hold algorithms accountable, meanwhile, have not made the same strides as artificial intelligence.

While advocates raise questions about housing discrimination via algorithm, the Trump administration has taken steps to make it easier to throw out complaints of unfair screening. The department of Housing and Urban Development changed how it interprets claims of discriminatory practices when no discrimination was intended, which will give property owners, brokers and financial institutions more avenues to dismiss such claims.

The change “frees up parties to innovate, and to take risks to meet the needs of their customers, without the fear that their efforts will be second-guessed through statistics years down the line,” Paul Compton, HUD’s general counsel, told reporters last year.

The changes, which were entered into the federal register Thursday, will go into effect Oct. 26.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
DOJ accuses broker of housing discrimination
Suit claims Denis Donovan discriminated against Black renters on Staten Island

The Department of Justice has accused a Staten Island real estate broker of housing discrimination after a testing program revealed he offered rental discounts and other favorable treatment only to white clients.
Denis Donovan and his brokerage, Village Realty of Staten Island, were tested between February and May 2018 for compliance with the Fair Housing Act, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The probe revealed that Donovan told Black testers about fewer available units and offered rental discounts to white testers but not Black testers. Donovan also allegedly showed white testers housing options in majority white and racially mixed neighborhoods while offering Black testers options only in those racially mixed neighborhoods.

What’s more, the suit said Donovan told Black testers that they might be subject to certain requirements, including credit checks and signing disclosure forms to see available units, although he did not do the same for white testers.
Donovan declined to comment. Village Realty of Staten Island did not respond to a request for comment.

Housing discrimination has been getting more attention from elected officials since an undercover Newsday investigation found evidence that agents in Long Island were steering buyers to certain neighborhoods based on race, and telling Black buyers — but not white ones — that they needed pre-approved mortgages.

The three-year investigation prompted action from the state Senate, with dozens of agents and executives from firms like Douglas Elliman and Keller Williams called to testify. That move was initially met with resistance, and during a September hearing, many of the agents filmed undercover by Newsday were defensive about the probe and refused to admit they had engaged in discrimination.
The hearing also revealed that none of the brokerages had disciplined anyone involved, a detail that shocked senators and advocates.
Elliman’s Long Island CEO, Ann Conroy, said the brokerage had decided against disciplinary action because it determined that no discrimination had occured.

The comments seemed to frustrate Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who told Conroy that Douglas Elliman “has a real chance to step up, acknowledge a problem and fix it.”
“Instead,” he said, “you’re making a lot of excuses.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
Redfin accused of redlining in lawsuit
National Fair Housing Alliance says brokerage’s minimum home price policy discriminates against communities of color

The National Fair Housing Alliance has accused Redfin of discriminatory policies and redlining, months after the national brokerage’s CEO pledged to address systemic racial discrimination.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the United States District Court in Seattle, the alliance argued that Redfin’s minimum home price policy violates fair housing laws.
“Redfin redlines communities of color in this digital age by setting minimum home listing prices in each housing market on its website under which it will not offer any real estate brokerage services to buyers or sellers,” the complaint said.
“While the actual minimum price varies from one metropolitan area to another, between counties, and between cities within counties, its impact is always the same — buyers and sellers of homes in non-white areas are far less likely to be offered Redfin’s services and discounts than buyers and sellers of homes in white areas.”

According to GeekWire, which first reported the suit, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman responded to the allegations Thursday in an email to staff.
“Our long-term commitment is to serve every person seeking a home, in every community, profitably,” he wrote. “The challenge is that we don’t know how to sell the lowest-priced homes while paying our agents and other staff a living wage, with health insurance and other benefits.”

The response, which was also posted to the company’s website, disputed the allegation that the brokerage had violated the Fair Housing Act, arguing the law “clearly supports a business’s decisions to set the customers and areas it serves.”
This is the latest example of brokerages coming under fire amid accusations of discrimination. In 2019, a Newsday investigation revealed that agents from several brokerages in Long Island were routinely discriminating against minority buyers.
Earlier in the year, after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Redfin’s Kelman wrote a blog post pledging to help fight racial discrimination.

But some former agents and staff hit back at the comments, brandishing them as disingenuous.
“They kept on saying how much they value diversity,” one former broker who worked at Redfin’s Boston office told The Real Deal. But, the agent commented, in reference to that office: “Why are there no minorities in a management position whatsoever?”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
NAR apologizes for housing discrimination
Homeownership rate among Black Americans lags far behind that of whites

The National Association of Realtors has issued an historic apology for its role in housing discrimination, but some say it falls short.
Charlie Oppler, the president-elect of NAR, which represents 1.4 million real estate professionals, said realtors have contributed to inequality, which he described as an “outrage to our morals and our ideals,” Bloomberg News reported.
The Black homeownership rate is just 46 percent as of Sept. 30, compared to 67 percent for all U.S. households and 76 percent for white households, according to the Census Bureau.
“We can’t go back to fix the mistakes of the past, but we can look at this problem squarely in the eye,” said Oppler, who is the CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. “And, on behalf of our industry, we can say that what realtors did was shameful, and we are sorry.”
The organization’s past mistakes include opposing the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and barring black members from joining the group. Their exclusion led to the formation in 1947 of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, which promotes Black homeownership.

More recently, NAR found itself in the crosshairs after a bombshell investigation from Newsday found that brokers on Long Island routinely steered Black homebuyers away from white neighborhoods. The report spurred swift action from elected officials, who demanded an apology from the real estate industry.
Donnell Williiams, president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, said the industry apology was insufficient, and did not offer reparations to Black homeowners.
“The difference of Black-American wealth and white wealth is tied directly to homeownership,” Williams told Bloomberg. “They manipulated the entire system.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Toxic talk: Agents’ use of Parler app stirs concerns​

“To know their broker is advertising on a site that has extremists may call into question their judgment”

A few weeks after the election, Steve Martin Smith, a Florida-based RE/MAX broker, used his public Parler account to amplify a post by the far-right extremist group Proud Boys. The all-male, self-described “chauvinist” organization was promoting a march for President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.
Thousands attended the Dec. 12 event, including anti-Trump protesters, and the demonstration devolved into violence. Four stabbings were reported in connection with the march, and Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio said he participated in the burning of a “Black Lives Matter” banner pulled from a historic Black church.

Why Martin Smith promoted the Proud Boys’ post is unclear. He declined to be interviewed and switched his Parler account to private after being contacted by The Real Deal. Still, the agent, who has a weekly real estate podcast, is among millions of Americans drawn to Parler as the “premier free speech social network.” The platform has become popular among conservatives as an alternative to Twitter, which had begun fact-checking tweets by Trump and other Republican figures.

“It’s really hard to say you’re going to use it like any other social media platform. You’re known by the company you keep.”
Jennifer White Karp, Brick Underground
But Martin Smith’s behavior on Parler illustrates a pattern on the app that concerns those who study extremism.
“Do [users like Martin Smith] think that event is legitimate because of Parler’s claim that it’s for conservatives, or do they actually support the Proud Boys?” asked Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
Segal worries that Parler’s anti-censorship stance could allow extremist users to behave without limitations. For example, Proud Boys has been banned from Twitter since 2018 and from Facebook since June, but the group’s Parler account has more than 270,000 followers.

While that’s a red flag for an expert like Segal, it’s unclear if the real estate agents using Parler are aware of the controversy it has caused or its use by extremists. This could have unintended consequences for their real estate business, experts warn, particularly as the industry begins to crack down on agents’ online conduct. Parler did not respond to a request for comment.
“For some people who reject extremism and hate, to know that their real estate broker is advertising on a site that has extremists may call into question their judgment,” said Segal. “Whether that’s fair or not.”

Here to parley​

Parler users who self-identify as agents are affiliated with a range of brokerages, among them Coldwell Banker, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, RE/MAX and eXp Realty.

Some say they say were drawn to the app after feeling alienated by mainstream social media like Twitter and Facebook. They’re not alone.
Parler, founded in 2018, became the most-downloaded app in the days after the 2020 presidential election. Many Trump supporters, including actress Kirstie Alley and former UFC fighter Tito Ortiz, recently adopted the platform, beckoning their millions of followers to join them. Other celebrities, including radio host and musician John Tesh, also jumped to Parler.
Phil Pennington, a Realtor based in Gibson, Arizona, created his Parler account after seeing people in his network on Facebook and Instagram make the move.
He said he believed in the idea of a social media platform “that is just a free exchange of community ideas without the comments that seem to be so divisive,” and was hopeful Parler might live up to that.

Other alternative platforms to see user bases grow this year include MeWe and Rumble. Parler functions a lot like Twitter, with 1,000-character posts known as “Parleys” and an “echo” function that amplifies other users’ posts. To see public conversations playing out in the app, users must sign up for an account and select whom to follow.

While Parler doesn’t officially brand itself as a platform for conservatives, newcomers to the app in November were welcomed by automated messages from Trump’s re-election campaign and former Rep. Ron Paul’s accounts. The platform is bankrolled by Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of conservative megadonor Robert Mercer.

One of Parler’s selling points is that it doesn’t moderate discussions, but instead relies on users to police each other. An account is deleted when it garners up to 20 “violation points,” which are determined by “a jury of your peers, not employees of Parler.” The app notes that sharing pornography, threats of violence or illegal activites are “contributing factors.”
But Segal is concerned that Parler users will not recognize and report extremist views. Much of the content that brings together extremists and moderates on Parler is centered around Trump and his claim that the election results were illegitimate.
Since the election, Parler has been used by far right activists and Trump supporters to jointly organize and participate in rallies such as the Million MAGA March and, most recently, the Proud Boys’ march. The overlap creates an opportunity for extremists to gain a larger audience among moderates over a shared cause without those users necessarily recognizing the extreme views a group may stand for, Segal explained.

“That’s ultimately the danger, when we don’t even know how to recognize the extremists in our midst,” said Segal. “Parler doesn’t seem to be trying to address that.”
Pennington said he doesn’t feel any more likely to run into extremist content on Parler than other platforms. “The same could be said about Instagram or Facebook,” he said.
Extremism and hate speech on major social media platforms have been rampant for years. But Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have increasingly cracked down on extremism, hate speech and disinformation on their platforms.
Despite his concerns, Segal stressed that Parler is far from becoming like the app Gab or the website Stormfront. Gab gained notoriety in 2018 for being where the shooter at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue posted anti-Semitic rants and conspiracy theories before his deadly rampage. And a Klan leader founded Gab, which is considered the first major hate site on the internet.

“There are a lot of non-extremist users on Parler right now,” Segal said, adding that “it’s not always cut and dry the motivation behind someone who wants to be there.”

The bottom line​

Several agents say they aren’t too concerned about a stigma being associated with the platform.
Christina Winters-Ronk, who owns her own firm in Oregon, joined Parler in February because she liked its commitment to free speech.
“That finger-pointing of hate is absolutely in the wrong direction,” she said, noting that she’s seen more inappropriate behavior and trolling on TikTok than Parler.

Winters-Ronk’s Parler posts are mostly personal, though she occasionally posts videos and photos of properties she’s selling.
For instance, she documented a recent trip she took to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Million MAGA March. In one photo she posted over the summer, she poses in a Trump hat next to a client’s poster for former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Winters-Ronk said the photo was taken after she and her client realized they were on opposite sides of the political fence. She said posting a photo like that in jest was something she appreciated about Parler.
“Is it a social media platform that I feel like I could post something like that without backlash? Yes, absolutely,” she said. “Do I feel like that would be something censored on another site? Probably.”

“If somebody were going to judge me based on having a social media account like Parler, I don’t know that I need them as a client,” she added.
But while having a Parler account isn’t an endorsement of extremism and hate speech, some homebuyers and sellers may not care to make that distinction.
“It’s really hard to say you’re going to use it like any other social media platform,” said Jennifer White Karp, managing editor of Brick Underground, a consumer-focused real estate site based in New York. “I mean, you’re known by the company you keep.”
“I think one of the big concerns is that people [using Parler] could be more steeped in this ideology and become more indoctrinated, and it could affect how they work,” she added.

The industry’s largest trade group is increasing its effort to police agents’ behavior on social media. Last month, the National Association of Realtors broadened its Code of Ethics to cover not just a Realtor’s conduct while on the job, but in all manner of public life, including social media.
So far, NAR hasn’t fielded any complaints about agents’ conduct on Parler. But a spokesperson for the association noted that “the fact that Parler doesn’t impose such limitations on discriminatory speech doesn’t mean the Code doesn’t.”
Segal said how Parler deals with extremist users in the future will determine whether being associated with the platform will carry more of a stigma.
“In six months, we’ll see just how connected this platform is to extremism,” he said. “Then there won’t be any excuses.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
‘She Wants Well-Qualified People’: 88 Landlords Accused of Housing Bias
A lawsuit by a watchdog group claims that its undercover investigation found widespread bias against tenants receiving federal housing assistance
The caller was a woman looking to move with her boyfriend into a studio apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, advertised for $1,751 a month. The man who answered, the real estate broker on the listing, said he would be happy to show them the place.
The woman, however, had one last question: Would the landlord accept her federal housing voucher for tenants of lesser means, known as Section 8?
“If she accept what? Oh, no, she would not,” Harris Philip, an independent broker, told the woman, who was actually an undercover investigator for a watchdog group. “She just doesn’t. She wants well-qualified people.”
That exchange, secretly recorded by the group, Housing Rights Initiative, in February 2020 and shared with The Times, is part of a sweeping lawsuit filed on Monday in federal court in Manhattan that accuses 88 brokerage firms and landlords in New York City of discriminating against people with housing vouchers.
The suit recounts dozens of conversations recorded by investigators, who posed as prospective tenants, that detail the extraordinary challenges faced by renters using Section 8, essentially a guaranteed rent check from the federal government that has been a pillar of rental support for many American families.

Enacted in 1978, Section 8 is a $22 billion annual program managed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development but administered by local housing authorities. New York City receives the largest share in the country.
In New York, those renters are primarily Black and Latino. More than 125,000 households in the city use Section 8 housing vouchers.
The companies named in the suit include small landlords and brokers, as well as large, national companies, like Compass, the Corcoran Group and a Century 21 franchise office in Manhattan.

For landlords and brokers, participating in the Section 8 program can involve bureaucratic challenges, including having an inspector review and sign off on the health and safety of a unit before it is rented. But those additional steps cannot be used as grounds to deny a Section 8 tenant.
A spokeswoman for the Corcoran Group said that the company was committed to “upholding the principles of the Fair Housing Act,” referring to the 1968 federal law, as well as “offering comprehensive education and training programs for our employees and affiliated sales agents.”
“We take these allegations seriously,” the spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for the Century 21 corporate office declined to discuss the case but said that the company does not tolerate any discrimination. Compass did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Philip, the broker for the Upper East Side apartment, said in an interview that he did not recall that conversation last year but knew it was illegal in New York to discriminate against someone because of their source of income.


“I would never say anything straightforward like this because I do consider Section 8 qualified,” Mr. Philip said, adding that he had been a broker for 40 years but had never rented to someone with a voucher. “Maybe she rubbed me the wrong way.”
For years, undercover operations have been frequently used to expose potential discrimination in both the rental and homeowner markets. The method is also used by government investigators, including those who target Section 8 discrimination.

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The lawsuit raises questions not only about widespread bias against voucher recipients but also about the blatant flouting by agents and property owners of both New York City and New York State laws that prohibit discrimination against people because of their source of income.
Because unused vouchers expire in 120 days without an extension, each rejection is a significant setback in trying to find an apartment, which is already difficult in New York’s expensive rental market.

“Our goal here is simple: It’s to get real estate companies to abandon their discriminatory housing practices and follow the damn law,” said Aaron Carr, the founder and executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative, which started in 2016. “They are the gatekeepers of housing and get to decide where families live, where they work and where children go to school. Housing discrimination goes beyond the walls of housing.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and for the discriminatory practices to be stopped.
The Community Housing Improvement Program, an organization that represents landlords in New York, called the Section 8 program a “bureaucratic nightmare” that needs to be overhauled. The group was not named in the suit.
“Tenants, housing providers and elected officials all see the failings of the current voucher system,” Jay Martin, the group’s executive director, said on Monday. “There must be no tolerance for income discrimination.”

During its yearlong investigation, the Housing Rights Initiative identified apartments across the city that would have been affordable to a renter with a housing voucher. The group built a profile of a prospective tenant, often that of a working-class woman with good credit, and recorded 477 telephone conversations about units found on the listing site StreetEasy.

Many calls lasted several minutes, as the broker or landlord described the unit and asked about the tenant’s background. In 48 percent of those conversations, however, the broker or landlord ended the conversation as soon as the undercover investigator mentioned the voucher — with some even hanging up, according to the suit.
The group heard a range of reasons for a rejection. Some were subtle — “I don’t think this apartment would work for your needs,” a Corcoran broker said about a Manhattan apartment — while many were explicit, stating outright that the vouchers would not be accepted.
Tamaine Hamilton grew up in the foster care system, moved into transitional housing three years ago and has spent that time trying to find an apartment that will accept his Section 8 voucher. He said he has submitted more than 75 apartment applications and has yet to be accepted.

“I’ll never give up because I don’t have the luxury to give up,” Mr. Hamilton, 26, said.
Some of the allegations in the lawsuit mirror findings by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the agency that investigates claims of income discrimination and that since 2014 has obtained more than $1.2 million in penalties and damages from landlords.
The pandemic has hampered the commission’s work — its income discrimination unit is down to three people after two employees left last year, though the commission’s larger staff of attorneys helps out on cases. They cannot be replaced until the city lifts a hiring freeze that has been continued during the outbreak, a commission spokeswoman said.
“The cases that are filed are a fraction of the discrimination that’s actually experienced,” said Katherine Carroll, an assistant commissioner in its Law Enforcement Bureau.
The New York Attorney General’s office also investigates allegations of income discrimination and has a form for tenants to submit complaints. A spokeswoman said most complaints are resolved with the office sending a cease-and-desist letter to end the discriminatory practices.
The suit accuses brokers and landlords of violating the city’s and state’s income discrimination laws, among the most protective in the country for tenants with housing vouchers.
“Between legal services providers, civil rights law firms and oversight agencies, there aren’t enough people to deal with this widespread issue,” said Robert Desir, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, which was involved in the lawsuit. “Our hope is that through these lawsuits and publicizing the situation, we can bring people to task, especially owners who have access to a large number of apartments.”
The New York City Housing Authority, the country’s largest Section 8 provider, has a wait list of 36,065 applicants, the agency said. People trying to leave shelters and survivors of domestic violence are given preference.
Section 8 housing recipients typically pay 30 percent of their monthly income toward rent, with the voucher covering the balance of the rent and utilities.

For Nancy Padilla, who spent 20 years living in shelters after leaving an abusive relationship, the excuses and rejections cited in the lawsuit sounded familiar.
After bouncing among shelters, Ms. Padilla finally found an apartment in Queens in 2018 that would accept her Section 8 voucher. But she said she spent hundreds of dollars on nonrefundable apartment application fees, just to be denied when she mentioned the voucher.
“The roller-coaster ride they put me in, I had a mental breakdown,” Ms. Padilla, 58, said. “You are playing with someone’s life.”
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

“Not our kind”: How discrimination persists in New York co-ops​

Boards continue to reject qualified buyers and get away with it​

Stefani Berkin spent much of 2019 visiting apartments with two of her clients, a gay couple in their 30s.
The pair looked at about 50 units, hoping for a two-bedroom Downtown, preferably with private outdoor space. They thought they struck gold with a $6.8 million co-op in Chelsea — until the board turned them down.
“It definitely wasn’t because they didn’t have the financial wherewithal. They could have bought out the entire building,” said Berkin, president of R New York, who said she’d been warned by the listing agent that the seller, also gay, was known to throw loud parties that upset the neighbors.
Berkin’s clients weren’t ready to give up, so they sent a heartfelt letter, offering to pay for the lobby’s $250,000 renovation. The board didn’t budge.
“Did they get turned down because they were gay? Maybe,” she said. “Probably, in my opinion.”
But there was no way to prove it and little recourse.
For decades, federal, state and local fair housing laws have prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, family status or disability. But New York City co-ops, which came into vogue more than a century ago, are run by boards that do not need to provide reasons for rejecting buyers. The closed-door system gives the city’s more than 6,800 co-op buildings carte blanche to deny even the most financially qualified applicants.
“It is the ultimate exclusionary tool in American housing, institutionalized and legal,” wrote Steven Gaines in “The Sky’s the Limit,” his 2005 chronicle of luxury real estate in New York.
The Real Deal interviewed more than 40 brokers, lawyers, co-op owners and activists, and found a consensus that while boards have evolved, discrimination persists in many of the city’s co-op buildings, which cling to opaque systems of power and control.
The influential co-op lobby has long stymied efforts by advocates and lawmakers to make the process more transparent, even as Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties have adopted such measures. Opponents argue that these laws amount to government overreach and could unleash a torrent of lawsuits from rejected buyers.
Now, a national reckoning around race and social justice has brought the issue back to the fore, bolstered by a progressive shift in New York politics. That’s giving momentum to co-op disclosure bills proposed in the state Senate and Assembly this year.
“The old guard has to be stopped,” said Brian Phillips, an agent at Douglas Elliman.
Few boards put financial criteria in writing, Phillips said, giving them license to discriminate. “There has to be accountability,” he said. “It cannot be ambiguous any longer.”

Designed to exclude

New York City has more co-op buildings than anywhere else in the country.
The first co-op in the city dates back to the late 19th century, when residents banded together to buy apartments in shared housing clubs.
The new form of homeownership promoted the idea of a jointly owned property, giving way to buildings that explicitly banned ethnic minorities. Later, boards placed informal limits on the religious and racial makeup of their neighbors.
“The fact is, co-ops acted with impunity,” said Cathy Taub of Sotheby’s International Realty.
The legal structure of co-ops lets boards wield tremendous power over who can buy into the building, under the guise of ensuring that candidates are financially qualified and will be a “good neighbor.” Co-ops are considered to be businesses, not real property, and they are bound by corporate law that requires them to act in the best interest of shareholders.

In 1959, the Anti-Defamation League found that one-third to one-half of the city’s 175 luxury co-ops had no Jewish residents. A decade later, the ADL’s Harold Braverman told New York magazine it was “still very obvious” that limits were being maintained.
It wasn’t just Jews.
In the late 1950s, the singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte was turned down for a rental apartment at 300 West End Avenue. He famously purchased the entire building, turned it into co-ops and encouraged friends to buy in.
At One Sutton Place South, longtime board President Betty Sherrill allowed the designer Bill Blass, who was widely believed to be gay, to purchase a co-op in the building so long as he wrote a letter vowing to “never embarrass” the board, Gaines wrote in his book. In turning away Canadian fashion designer Arnold Scaasi, Sherrill reportedly said, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you live with Parker [Ladd], and that’s not allowed in the building.”
The extent of discrimination today is hard to quantify, but one top broker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, estimated it is a factor in up to 20 percent of board decisions.
“You kind of sniff it out,” the broker said, even “with no proof.”
As recently as 2008, financier H. Fred Krimendahl II told the Observer that 820 Fifth Avenue had no residents of color, but “if Tiger Woods wanted to live here, we’d be happy to talk to him.” The same article quoted a top broker saying, “You wouldn’t bring a rap singer into 19 East 72nd — just as you wouldn’t take 19 East 72nd into some rap building. They’re divergent cultures.”
The city’s Commission on Human Rights is charged with investigating housing discrimination claims, including those involving co-ops. The commission logged more than 1,340 housing-related complaints between July 2019 and June 2020, according to its annual report. Most had to do with disabilities and source of income; 103 had to do with race.
Agents still swap information on buildings that are notoriously difficult.
Brown Harris Stevens’ Miles Chapin said he’s been told, “All they want is WASPy old money.” Some agents use code words like “NQ,” which means “Not Quite,” or “NOK,” meaning “Not Our Kind.”
“The standard [rejection] is, ‘They don’t like the finances,’” Chapin said. “Another euphemism [is], ‘I think this is more of a condo profile than a co-op profile.’”
When buyers don’t take the hint, some boards have been known to stall by repeatedly requesting information or tacking on additional application fees.
Last November, co-op owner Orlando Rymer sued the board at 65 West 87th Street for raising its application fee after learning his prospective buyers were Chinese. According to court documents, the board raised its standard fee sixfold, from $2,367 to $14,330. It then requested more and more information from the buyers, dragging the process out for eight months before turning them down.
Court documents also allege a pattern of anti-Asian sentiment by Rymer’s neighbors, including an incident in which one sprayed a Chinese man visiting his apartment with disinfectant. The board denied the allegations. The case is ongoing.

Gatekeepers

Many brokers contacted for this article said they are morally opposed to discrimination, but declined to speak on the record for fear of losing business.
Whether they’re representing buyers or sellers, brokers are a key conduit between applicants and boards, as are managing agents, who process board applications. Some of the city’s top brokerage firms also have property management arms, and the two businesses often feed off each other.
“The brokerage community has been a participant in this by being apprehensive about who would and wouldn’t get through the board, thus becoming what I’ve always considered inappropriate gatekeepers,” said Frederick Peters, CEO of Warburg Realty.
Years ago, he brought a Black couple to see a co-op. “The selling broker said, ‘Oh, for God’s sake, you had to make my life more complicated by bringing me this?’” Peters recalled. “I said, ‘Actually, if ever there were a slam dunk buyer it would be this. You can’t turn them down.’”
New York agents are bound by fair housing laws, which the Real Estate Board of New York helps enforce by screening listings shared on its syndicated listings feed. In September 2020, the trade organization instituted a fine for agents in violation of those laws; repeated offenders can lose access to the feed altogether. REBNY hasn’t found any violations in the last five months.
But it can be hard to pinpoint violations in an industry that prizes discretion.
Celebrity broker Ryan Serhant said that early in his career he represented a buyer in her 30s who was turned down. Officially, there was no reason. But the listing agent told him, “I think it’s because she’s a single woman and if they approve her, they’re approving her future husband.”

Agents say there can also be consequences for those who go against industry norms.
Elliman’s Joanne Douglas had a longstanding relationship with a co-op board in the 1990s that ended after she brought an interracial couple to a listing.
Douglas said the couple were Harvard graduates and financially qualified, but the board stalled — until Habitat magazine published an exposé about a board being successfully sued for discrimination.
“They got accepted a day later,” Douglas said. “I literally never got one single listing after that.”

“An all-out war”

The fact is, rejections by boards are common. In the mid-aughts, the billionaire Len Blavatnik was denied by two buildings — 927 Fifth and the San Remo — before paying a record $77.5 million for New York Jets owner Woody Johnson’s pad at 834 Fifth.
But Blavatnik didn’t fight back. Few spurned buyers do.
Suing a co-op board, particularly for discrimination, is rare. Many buyers fear being blacklisted by other co-ops. Also, discrimination is hard to prove.
“You can infer and you can make assumptions,” said attorney Marc Fitapelli, “but you can’t go to court with assumptions.”
He would know. In 2012, Fitapelli represented Goldwyn Thandrayen, a citizen of Mauritius, who sued the board of 210 East 36th Street for allegedly blocking his cash purchase of a $390,000 co-op. Court documents cite an email from a board member stating that although Thandrayen appeared to have “quite a lot of money,” his “entire financial portfolio is in some tiny little unknown country.”
Fitapelli declined to comment on the suit, which was settled.

Perhaps the highest-profile case was a standoff between financier Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher Jr. and board members at the Dakota, the legendary West 72nd Street building where John Lennon was shot in 1980.
In 2011, Fletcher, who is Black, sued the Dakota’s board for racial discrimination after it rejected his bid to buy another apartment there for $5.7 million. “That was an all-out war,” recalled Milton Williams, one of Fletcher’s attorneys. The New York Times labeled the suit an “embarrassing crack in the facade” of one of the city’s most famous addresses.
Friends had urged Fletcher not to fight the board, according to a 2013 profile in Vanity Fair. When he did, his personal financials, including bank statements and Social Security number, were leaked to the public, triggering a rush of stories about his personal life.
“The stress of the Dakota fight would get so extreme that, according to Fletcher, he got shingles,” the article said.
A judge threw out the suit in 2015, saying Fletcher lacked evidence to prove discrimination.
Still, the case had a lasting impact. As part of the case, a panel of judges found that individual board members could be held liable for acts of discrimination.
“Up until that point,” Williams said, “they had no skin in the game.”
One of the few successful cases was won a quarter century ago.
In 1996, an interracial couple, Shannon and Gregory Broome, sued the board of the Beekman Hill House, at 425 East 51st Street, after being turned down for a sublet. During the interview, court documents said, a board member scrawled “black man” on a notepad. A jury awarded the couple $640,000 in damages and found board president Nicholas Biondi personally liable for $124,000.
Biondi had to give up his apartment and moved to Long Island, where he died in 2018. Long after the case, he maintained he was a victim of circumstance. “His is the story of a successful business man, family man, and community leader who nearly lost it all,” he wrote on his blog, PunitiveDamage.com, “just for being a ‘good neighbor.’”

“I will get this done before I die”

Barbara Ford, a Long Island broker and lawyer, has spent two decades trying to bring transparency to co-ops.
In 2009, she was instrumental in getting Suffolk County to pass legislation that requires co-op boards to disclose in writing why they have rejected an application.
Ford works with others in the industry to target villages and small communities across New York, hoping to create a patchwork of policies that will lead to her ultimate goal: a statewide co-op disclosure law.
“It’s taking me decades here,” she said, “but I will get this done before I die.”
One of the big challenges is documenting housing discrimination.
The Fair Housing Justice Center can’t send testers before co-op boards because doing so would require identity checks and submitting Social Security numbers, said Craig Waletzko, the group’s community engagement coordinator.
“I will say,” he said, “whenever we do investigate for it, we tend to find it.”
Despite failing to get previous iterations of the bill through the legislature, its sponsor, Sen. Brian Kavanagh, said he hopes that increased attention on fair housing issues this year will make the difference. New York City Council Member Brad Lander has also proposed a co-op disclosure bill.
“It’s been a long road,” Kavanagh said. “The co-op boards and their representatives have been pretty well organized and really have resisted.”
Those lobbying against proposed changes include the Westchester-based Building & Realty Institute and the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums, which counts more than 2,300 buildings as members. The CNYC has contracted to spend nearly $100,000 this year on lobbyists at Cozen O’Connor and Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, according to filings with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
“We feel co-ops have functioned very, very nicely for a very, very long time without this sort of government imposition,” said Mary Ann Rothman, the CNYC’s executive director.
Critics say they believe the intent of the legislation is good, but that existing fair housing laws are sufficient.
“This legislation is a cure in search of a problem,” said John Van Der Tuin, an attorney who represented the Dakota board when Fletcher sued. “There aren’t very many instances in which there have been substantiated allegations of discrimination.”
According to Building & Realty Institute CEO Tim Foley, the problem with disclosure — and “this notion of a magic letter” — is that “there’s no track record, to us, that says that this is guaranteed to help the problem enough to make up for what we know will be increased liability.”
Ford, the Long Island lawyer, called that argument a red herring. In the more than 10 years since Suffolk County’s transparency measures passed, “There wasn’t one [lawsuit],” she said.
REBNY, whose members sit on both sides of the debate, said it agrees co-ops should disclose why applications are not approved. But in a statement, the lobbying group’s president, James Whalen, said any legislation should “be crafted in a way that is squarely focused on preventing housing discrimination and does not result in frivolous lawsuits.”
Boards also insist some flexibility is needed.
Marc Luxemburg, a real estate attorney and president of the CNYC, recalled how 40 years ago, real estate scion Robert Durst wanted to buy a co-op in his Upper West Side building. Durst’s first wife, Kathleen, had just gone missing.
“Nobody could prove he had anything to do with her disappearance,” recalled Luxemburg, who said the board decided not to take a chance. “Years later, it turned out he had a trail of disappearing people.”
Durst is currently on trial in Los Angeles for murder.

Demands

Vetting co-op buyers is invasive by design.
Neighbors in these buildings essentially go into business together, so before accepting a buyer, boards typically want to see financial statements and tax returns to make sure they are financially qualified. Most also ask for personal and professional references.
Real estate agents acknowledge that boards have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, but say many use their perch to ask probing questions. It is standard to ask buyers not only if they own pets and plan to renovate but also where they went to school and what clubs they belong to, according to TRD’s review of several applications. Taub, of Sotheby’s, has seen applications that require prospective buyers to list marital status and age.
“They knew what I made, what I had saved, what I had for breakfast,” said one top agent who lives in an Upper West Side co-op.
Serhant said boards, which are made up of volunteers, tend to attract those “who enjoy having perceived power” over others. “You see that, it’s in the demands,” he said.
Over the past decade, the co-op market has not kept pace with condos.
The median sale price for a Manhattan condo in 2020 was $1.7 million, up 52.6 percent from 2011, according to Miller Samuel data. The median co-op price rose only 15.9 percent, to $779,750.
Condos command a premium in part because they are newer and have more amenities. But some say co-ops’ archaic policies are a factor.
Young buyers, in particular, are put off by the onerous approval process.
“They don’t want to undress financially for the board,” said Lisa Larson of Sotheby’s.
In Manhattan’s luxury market, condos now outsell co-ops four to one, according to Donna Olshan, who tracks high-end contracts in a weekly report.
Olshan said the co-op sector is “deteriorating” for several reasons, not least of which is that people can’t buy and sell freely without the “blessing of a handful of people.”
Some co-ops also require buyers to have a certain amount of cash on hand, even after the sale has closed.
Berkin, for example, has clients shopping for a $2.5 million co-op. They make $1 million a year, but she said they will probably need financial help from relatives to be approved by most boards. “When these boards ask for 2.5 times the purchase price in post-purchase liquidity, who has that?” she asked.
The system benefits old money, which Black buyers tend not to have because of historic, systemic racism in the labor market, said Dorothy Brown, the author of “The Whiteness of Wealth.”
“If you need someone to make $1 million, it will be an overwhelmingly white pool,” she said. “Even if you wind up with a Black banker who is making $1 million, the Black banker is more likely to be first-generation. They don’t come from $1 million parents.”
Some believe co-op boards have dug in their heels even more because of Covid. Strict financial requirements served co-ops well in the wake of the financial crisis because they had well-funded reserves.
Lately, some boards have taken to rejecting offers they deem too low to protect the value of other apartments in the building.
But that can be a double-edged sword: Units that stay on the market longer are likely to sell for less.
In one case, a $1 million co-op on East 57th Street sold at a $60,000 loss months after the board rejected a higher offer from an elderly gay couple.
“I really was in shock,” said the seller, who was pained to be party to the board’s actions. “It was clearly wrong.”
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the seller said he reported his board to the city’s Commission on Human Rights, which notified him last year that it would investigate.
Others choose not to pursue their grievances. Berkin, the broker whose clients were rejected in Chelsea, said she offered to fight on their behalf. They weren’t interested.
“They didn’t want to sue,” she said. “[The buyers] didn’t feel they had to explain themselves.”
In a system with little transparency, it was another decision made quietly and leaving no trace.
user-matching
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Corcoran agent accused of racial, income discrimination by Section 8 renters​

Couple claims agent slowed application; Corcoran calls suit “without merit”​

A New York couple is suing the Corcoran Group and one of its agents for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act.

Gayle Leslie, 60, and Michael Jackson, 48, both Section 8 voucher recipients, accuse Corcoran agent Craig Hollander of leasing an apartment to someone else soon after learning of Jackson’s race.

Leslie, who is white, met Hollander in January while touring Manhattan apartments, court documents show. During a showing at an Inwood apartment at 55 Cooper Street, she told Hollander that she wanted to submit an application.

Two days later, Leslie submitted her materials, which included her Section 8 voucher, according to the suit, which was filed Monday. Two days after that, Hollander forwarded the offer to an unnamed management company, which a week later asked for additional materials.

It took four days for Leslie to compile the information, which included photo IDs of Jackson and his son, both of whom are Black. Twenty-four hours later, Hollander told her the apartment was already leased to someone else.
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member
It's been claimed that forcing Coop boards to give reasons for rejections in writing would lead to a huge spare of lawsuits. But since Suffolk County enacted their requirement in 2009 there hasn't been a single suit. Now Westchester has enacted similar legislation. Is the writing on the wall for NYC?
Campaign against co-op discrimination notches win in Westchester

County forces boards to be transparent, undergo training; NYC still lacks law​

Victories in advocates’ quest to curb co-op discrimination have been sporadic, as trade groups argued that disclosing why propsective buyers are rejected would prompt many to sue.
But in the absence of evidence for that claim, another county in New York has added some transparency to the opaque process of buying into a co-operative building.

Westchester County amended its co-op disclosure law this week to require co-op boards to provide a written reason for denying a prospective buyer’s application — a measure that has been called for throughout the state.

In co-ops, owners don’t own their apartment outright, but rather own shares of the building’s corporation, which is run by a board that can approve or deny applications to buy or sell those shares.
A recent investigation by The Real Deal found discrimination persists within New York City co-ops’ opaque application processes and often results in financially qualified buyers being turned away without a reason or recourse.

The changes in Westchester became law Monday evening and were first reported by Real Estate In-Depth.
The rationale behind a denial must be given to the applicant via a letter and also filed with the Westchester County Human Rights Commission. The board must also disclose to any applicant the minimum financial thresholds buyers must meet.

The amendment, which passed by a 15 to 2 vote, is the culmination of a nearly three-decade effort to bring transparency to co-ops. It began in the 1990s with the late Lois Bronz, the first Black woman elected to Westchester’s Board of Legislators. State senators including Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Pete Harckham also carried the legislation during their time in county politics.

“This law has been kicking around in Westchester as long as it’s been kicking around in New York City,” said Catherine Borgia, its chief sponsor now in the county legislature.
When the co-op disclosure law passed in 2018, it was a modified version of what backers had envisioned. The law simply required co-op boards to report to the Human Rights Commission how many applicants they rejected. It was slated to sunset at the end of this year.

“It was a hard compromise,” Borgia recalled. She had hoped that mandating disclosure would make clear how many people were being denied. She was right: Since 2018, Westchester co-ops have rejected more than 500 applicants. That moved legislators to beef up the law and make it permanent.
Co-op boards must now disclose to buyers in advance what their financial requirements are — before they spend money on application fees. And if they are rejected, they will be given a reason.

Borgia explained that disclosure of the rationale for rejections with the Human Rights Commission will allow for an analysis to determine whether discrimination is occurring. The commission is currently drafting the form that co-ops will have to fill out. She called it a “missing tool” for the commission, which has not been able to send testers posing as potential buyers to co-ops.

The Westchester law also requires board members to undergo fair housing training for two hours every two years — an addition that came from trade association Building & Realty Institute, which represents co-op boards and worked closely with legislators, Borgia said.
Westchester’s law is similar to ones already on the books in Suffolk County.

Statewide and New York City bills proposing similar measures have yet to advance past industry lobbyists who argue that additional requirements are unnecessary and create more liability for co-ops.
But since the Suffolk County law was implemented in 2009, not a single lawsuit of the kind that boards feared has been brought, said Barbara Ford, a Long Island broker who championed the new rules, in a past interview with The Real Deal.

Lawmakers in Westchester aren’t worried either. Damon Maher, chair of the county’s board of legislators committee on housing and labor, said there was no evidence that buildings would shoulder additional liability. In fact, Maher said he believed the new law would help keep co-op boards out of trouble.
“Having a reason for rejection in writing, and having co-op board members get fair housing training, will probably protect co-op boards from possible litigation,” he said in a release.

user-matching
 

David Goldsmith

All Powerful Moderator
Staff member

Buyer love letters have been banned in Oregon​

Oregon has just made it illegal to include a so-called “buyer love letter” when submitting an offer on a home.

The bill was signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown last week. It states that seller’s agents must now reject any communications from home buyers to sellers that contain any information outside of the actual offer they are making.

Oregon is the first U.S. state to ban buyer love letters in a real estate transaction.

Many times, especially when multiple people are fighting to buy a particular home, hopeful bidders will include a personal and heartfelt letter to the seller. The letter generally describes how much they love the home and how the can picture their family living their, growing up together, hosting holiday dinners in the kitchen or barbecues with the neighbors in the summer. Bidders may also express how they love the upgrades the current owner has made, and how they plan to take care of the home if they’re able to buy it.

The idea is that such a letter may help make the buyer standout when multiple, similar bids have been received. That could be true if the seller has a deep personal attachment to the home and wants to ensure it will be left in good hands.

In recent times though, bodies including the National Association of Realtors have warned against the use of such letters. The problem, according to the NAR, is they might contain personal information about the buyer that could lead to accusations of discrimination. It’s illegal for any seller to discriminate based on a buyer’s race, gender, religion or family makeup, and such a heartfelt letter may contain clues that could lead to the perception of discrimination.

“While this may seem harmless, these letters can actually pose fair housing risks because they often contain personal information and reveal characteristics of the buyer, such as race, religion, or familial status, which could then be used, knowingly or through unconscious bias, as an unlawful basis for a seller’s decision to accept or reject an offer,” the NAR explained in a post on its Fair Housing Corner blog last year.

In other words, there’s a danger that the seller could later be accused of choosing a particular bid for inappropriate reasons.

The NAR has welcomed Oregon’s decision to ban buyer love letters, saying that although it is not aware of any instances where they have led to a lawsuit or legal action, it is the right decision.

“We continue to stress that all parties in a real estate transaction should only consider legitimate, non-discriminatory criteria when making business decisions,” the NAR said. Failing to do so could leave realtors in a compromised position.”

The NAR is not alone in opposing the use of love letters. The bill’s main sponsor Rep. Mark Meek (D-Clackamas), is a real estate agent too.

The Oregon bill comes into law at a time when the use of love letters has become more common due to the fierce competition that many buyers face in the housing market today. With low inventory plaguing most U.S. housing markets, the average home sold in May received five offers, according to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey.

While love letters remain legal in every other U.S. state, the NAR continues to recommend against their use and encourages its members to educate clients about fair housing laws and the possible risks associated with the letters.

The NAR urges realtors to inform clients that they will refuse to deliver any buyer love letter and state they will not be accepted in their MLS listings. It also say agents should remind sellers that the decision to accept or reject an offer should be based on objective criteria only.
 
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