The 312-unit apartment complex in Holbrook formerly owned by Sun...

The 312-unit apartment complex in Holbrook formerly owned by Sun Lakes Development Corp. Credit: Tom Lambui

The former operator of a 312-unit apartment complex in Holbrook has agreed to settle claims it engaged in discrimination against the source of a prospective tenant’s income.

Saddle Rock Apartments LLC and Sun Lakes Development Corp., both based in North Merrick, agreed to pay $30,000 following a complaint filed by Long Island Housing Services regarding the townhouse apartments at 1000 Saddle Rock Rd.

LIHS, a housing nonprofit based in Bohemia, filed the complaint following a fair housing test it conducted in 2021. Fair housing testers working with the nonprofit posed as potential tenants who planned to use Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers to pay their rent. The testers were told the complex did not accept those vouchers.  

That encounter represented evidence of source of income discrimination, LIHS said, in which a housing provider treats potential tenants differently despite their intent to use a lawful form of income to pay rent. New York State and Suffolk County human rights laws prohibit such discrimination. Other forms of income that are covered include Social Security, disability and child support payments.

“If you’re paying the rent, you’re paying the rent. It really doesn’t matter the method,” said Ian Wilder, executive director of LIHS. “But in this case they said some version of [they] don’t take vouchers, which is unacceptable."

Sun Lakes Development no longer owns the complex. Last year, it sold the Holbrook development and a 66-unit complex in Bohemia to Fairfield Properties for $160.7 million. Fairfield did not own the complex at the time of the fair housing test and was not involved in the settlement, Wilder said.

Attorneys for Saddle Rock and Sun Lakes declined to comment on the settlement Thursday.

Wilder said the settlement will help supplement the grant funding it receives and will support future fair housing investigations.

The settlement is the latest example of an apartment operator discriminating against potential tenants using housing vouchers to pay their rent. LIHS entered settlements with Renaissance Management in November and Brookwood Apartments in August over source of income discrimination.

In April, Manhattan-based Housing Rights Initiative sued 11 local real estate brokers and landlords, alleging they told fair housing testers that they wouldn’t be able to use housing vouchers.

“It’s still too often,” Wilder said. “Housing providers don’t seem to have educated themselves that there’s a source of income law that’s been in both [Long Island] counties for about a decade.”

Wilder said he plans to propose that municipal governments ask housing providers to adopt a standard set of fair housing policies, or provide their own, when they issue rental permits. An additional step would be to require housing providers undergo training in fair housing policies in the same way real estate agents are required. 

“I find it very hard to understand how there could be pushback on saying you agree to policies that lay out what the law is for you,” Wilder said.

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