Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), seen in January, is sponsoring...

Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), seen in January, is sponsoring legislation to create a housing anti-discrimination task force. Credit: Newsday/Michael Cusanelli

A Suffolk legislative committee voted Tuesday to create a housing anti-discrimination task force after a Newsday investigation uncovered widespread evidence of Long Island real estate agents treating minorities unequally.

The county Legislature's Education and Human Services Committee approved a plan for an 11-member task force to examine the causes of fair housing violations and strengthen protections against discrimination.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), the bill's sponsor, said the group "will be seeking to do its part in rectifying this injustice," including evidence of steering, as identified in the Newsday investigation.

The unpaid task force would include experts on human rights and fair housing laws, as well as officials from county government, advocacy groups and the real estate industry.

The task force would review county human rights laws to identify areas for improvement and release a report of recommendations for county action within 90 days. It would dissolve at the end of 2020.

The NAACP will have a representative on the task force, said Tracey Edwards, the group's Long Island regional director.

"Assessing the current state and proposing and implementing solutions to close gaps is always a good idea," Edwards said.

recommended readingWatch the 'Long Island Divided' documentary

Other nongovernmental groups represented on the task force would include ERASE Racism, Latino Justice and the Long Island Board of Realtors, according to the legislation.

The proposal comes after a three-year Newsday investigation sent minority and white testers to look for homes in Nassau and Suffolk counties and found minority testers were treated disparately 40% of the time, compared with whites.

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

The investigation prompted federal, state and local officials to announce proposals to address housing discrimination.

recommended readingUndercover investigation reveals evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents

In Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone proposed a four-point plan, including hiring of an outside agency to test for housing discrimination, strengthening the county Human Rights Commission and raising public awareness about fair housing laws.

Bellone would sign the task force bill if passed by the full Legislature at its next meeting Dec. 17, spokesman Derek Poppe said.

"The county executive is laser-focused on building a culture of inclusion and welcomes any productive actions that further that goal," Poppe said in a statement.

State Senate hearing on LI

What: Three State Senate committees will host a joint hearing to discuss "real estate agents' discrimination of homebuyers."

Who: Among those scheduled to testify are local government officials, fair housing experts, a real estate executive, testers from Newsday's Long Island Divided investigation and real estate trade organizations.

When: Thursday, 10 a.m.

Where: Student Center Theater, Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center, Hofstra University, Hempstead.

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