New York State Attorney General Letitia James, pictured last year,...

New York State Attorney General Letitia James, pictured last year, announced the funding Wednesday. Credit: Charles Eckert

New York’s top prosecutor said Wednesday she will distribute $4.5 million to groups on Long Island and throughout the state to conduct fair-housing enforcement and education.

Long Island Housing Services in Bohemia is one of six groups across the state chosen to receive a share of the funds, which come from a $500 million settlement reached in 2018 with the Royal Bank of Scotland over its sale of housing-backed securities leading up to the 2007-09 recession, Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday. 

The recipients were selected by the not-for-profit group Enterprise Community Partners, which is managing the two-year pilot program. The Long Island group will receive at least $250,000. The Fair Housing Justice Center in Queens also will receive funding. The six groups cannot conduct in-person testing due to social-distancing rules during the coronavirus outbreak, but certain enforcement activities can take place now, the attorney general’s office said.

The program “will help us expand our program,” Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services, said Wednesday. “This is especially needed here considering our legacy of segregation and its continuing effect."

In the two-year pilot program, each group is eligible to apply for grants of up to $666,700 to enforce fair-housing laws that protect people from discrimination based on factors such as race, national origin, disability or legal source of income. The groups will check for bias in the rental and for-sale housing market by real estate agents, mortgage lenders and landlords by conducting as many as 70 to 100 "paired tests" a year, sending in two people with similar financial qualifications but different characteristics such as race.

One-fifth of the funds will be used to help needy people with disabilities and families with children modify their homes to address safety and health problems.

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