The Renaissance Bay housing complex in East Patchogue.

The Renaissance Bay housing complex in East Patchogue. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Two Suffolk County apartment complexes have agreed to a $15,000 fair housing settlement to resolve claims that they discriminated against prospective tenants who sought to use housing vouchers to pay their rent.

Long Island Housing Services, a Bohemia-based nonprofit fair housing agency, entered the settlement with LBV Ventures LLC, which owns Renaissance Bay in East Patchogue, and Renaissance Hills LLC, which owns Renaissance Hills in Hauppauge.

Renaissance Management, a New Jersey-based family office, acquired the two apartment communities in 2020. It paid $232.5 million to purchase the 915-apartment complex on La Bonne Vie Drive, which included 289 apartments reserved for  people 55 and older, according to an announcement at the time from commercial real estate firm CBRE Group. Later that year, it bought the 615-unit complex it would call Renaissance Hills for an undisclosed price.

Long Island Housing Services filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights last year after it heard from a renter who sought an apartment at Renaissance Bay, planned to use a housing choice voucher to pay rent and was told she needed to earn income that was a specific multiple of the rent to qualify. 

That type of income requirement, when a landlord requires tenants using government funds to pay their rent to have a certain rent-to-income ratio, violates state Human Rights Law, asserted Ian Wilder, executive director of LIHS. The law prohibits source of income discrimination, which occurs when housing providers refuse to accept lawful sources of income outside of employment.

“There’s no reason to have a multiple because the voucher goes straight to the rent,” Wilder said.

The voucher program, also known as Section 8, helps very low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities pay for rent. If they earned enough to meet a landlord’s income requirement, they likely wouldn’t qualify for the voucher, Wilder said.

Using such income requirements for tenants with vouchers mean “nobody with a voucher would ever be able to get in,” he said.

After receiving the complaint, Long Island Housing Services followed up by conducting fair housing testing at both Renaissance Bay and Renaissance Hills and found the apartment complexes were requiring rent-to-income ratios for people who said they planned to pay through housing choice vouchers.

A person who answered the phone Wednesday at Renaissance Hills said she was unaware of the incident and hung up. Further messages left for Renaissance  on Wednesday were not returned.

The Renaissance buildings agreed in the settlement to conduct training of their leasing agents on housing discrimination; review their policies and practices; display anti-discrimination posters at their facilities; and implement changes to their websites and rental applications to make tenants aware of the company's commitment to avoid housing discrimination.

The settlement is the latest example of a landlord agreeing to change its practices after an LIHS investigation found evidence of source-of-income discrimination.

In August, the agency announced a $40,000 settlement with Brookwood Apartments, which has six complexes in Suffolk, to settle source-of-income discrimination claims.  Last year, Brook Gardens Apartments in Bay Shore settled a case related to housing vouchers, and the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission ruled against Greenbriar Luxury Apartments in East Patchogue for illegal source-of-income discrimination.

Wilder said the agency would like to see local municipalities place a greater emphasis on compliance with state and local anti-discrimination laws as part of their rental permitting process.

“I would not say it’s unusual,” Wilder said of the latest settlement. “We’re looking for other tools because unfortunately we’re still hearing the same thing over and over again.”

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