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Bills to protect homebuyers from discrimination await final Nassau approval

Nassau County Legis. Arnold Drucker at the Nassau

Nassau County Legis. Arnold Drucker at the Nassau County Legislature in Mineola on Oct. 7. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Two proposed bills aimed at protecting homebuyers against discrimination in Nassau County advanced through committees Monday and await the approval of the full legislature and county executive.

One creates a staffed telephone hotline and online application for prospective homebuyers to log complaints with the county in the event of suspected redlining or steering by the real estate industry. The other bill would set a deadline for housing cooperatives in the county to respond to prospective buyers, rather than allowing applications to languish and potentially disenfranchise certain buyers.

Legislators noted the actions were the first in a series of reforms aimed at greater enforcement of the county’s fair housing laws and an effort to end discriminatory practices after a Newsday report found evidence of widespread separate and unequal treatment on Long Island of minority potential homebuyers and minority communities.

“When it comes to racism and discrimination, there’s no Democrat or Republican label attached to it. It’s equally offensive to everyone," said Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview), who introduced the bills. "This is one step we can take in government to eradicate this institutional practice here on Long Island.”

Newsday’s “Long Island Divided,” a three-year investigation, sent minority and white testers to look for homes to buy in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The investigation found that minority testers were treated disparately 40 percent of the time when compared with whites. Black testers experienced disparate treatment 49 percent of the time, compared with 39 percent for Hispanic testers and 19 percent for Asian testers.

Both bills gained the approval of legislators on the Rules Committee and Minority Affairs Committee and have the support of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Drucker’s bill creating a hotline is “indicative of his commitment to stopping housing discrimination on Long Island,” said Curran spokeswoman Christine Geed Monday in a statement, adding that the county executive is “proud to work with partners like him who understand that Nassau County is a place where all should be welcome regardless of race and religion.”

The bill proposing a staffed telephone hotline from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday was amended slightly by Republican legislators. The new version would staff the hotline from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The county’s Human Rights Commission would be responsible for establishing and staffing the toll-free hotline, which would begin operating 90 days after the resolution is adopted.

"It was great to collaborate on vital legislation that gives voice to homebuyers in Nassau County who believe they may have been a victim to discriminatory practices," said Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Seaford), chairman of the Minority Affairs committee. "This legislation underscores our bipartisan commitment to tackling these important issues head on, as quickly as possible." 

The bill setting a time limit for co-op boards would require them to acknowledge receipt of a prospective buyer’s application within 15 days and issue a response within 45 days. Co-ops failing to comply with the new law would first receive a warning and then fines of $1,000 and $2,000 for second and third warnings, respectively. 

Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Valley Stream), ranking member of the Minority Affairs committee, said legislators were “very thankful for the investigative journalism that exposed the unequal treatment but many people I have spoken to have said they were not shocked. And so now that we are working together, we hope this is the first of many steps we can take. This is affecting our properties and the assessment values of these communities.”

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