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'Long Island Divided' housing bias focus of free webinar for real estate agents

Darlene Sweeney-Newbern, director of regional operations at the

Darlene Sweeney-Newbern, director of regional operations at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, is among the panelists who will analyze Newsday's findings and discuss how agents can abide by fair housing laws. Credit: Darlene Sweeney-Newbern

The lessons of Newsday’s "Long Island Divided" investigation into housing discrimination on Long Island will be the focus of a free webinar for real estate agents on Friday.

The session, "Fair Housing, Is It?" will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m., on the website of Real Estate Express, a Missouri-based provider of online courses. The panelists are Darlene Sweeney-Newbern, director of regional operations at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which enforces state civil rights laws; Anne M. Petit, superintendent of the real estate and professional licensing at Ohio’s Department of Commerce; Robert Kutschbach, a real estate broker and trainer in Ohio; and Leigh Brown, a North Carolina-based real estate broker, trainer and speaker.

"We need to educate individuals about housing discrimination, what is acceptable and what is not," Sweeney-Newbern said in an interview. "I'm hoping that somebody will sit back and say, 'What? I didn't know that. Oops, I've done that. I won't do that anymore.'…. I want people to walk away with knowledge."

The webinar panelists plan to analyze Newsday’s findings and discuss how agents can abide by fair housing laws.

Newsday's three-year investigation found evidence of widespread unequal treatment of minority potential homebuyers and minority communities when paired testers — one white, one minority — met with real estate agents. In 40% of the tests, evidence suggested that brokers subjected minority testers to disparate treatment in comparison with white testers.

Black testers experienced disparate treatment 49% of the time, compared with 39% for Hispanic and 19% for Asian testers.

Newsday relied on two nationally known experts in fair housing standards to evaluate the agents’ actions, which were recorded by hidden cameras.

Sweeney-Newbern said Newsday’s findings are similar to what she has seen in Ohio. Fair housing groups send testers to meet with landlords and agents, and when they encounter potential discrimination they bring cases to the civil rights enforcement agency, she said.

She said, "It's been over 50 years since the passage of the Federal Fair Housing Act, and there are just studies after studies done that reveal 50 years ago we had this problem, and today… the problem still exists."

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