Ian Wilder, Executive Director of Long Island Housing Services, a...

Ian Wilder, Executive Director of Long Island Housing Services, a renters advocacy group, says too many landlords violate laws aimed at preventing discrimination. He spoke in advance of a Brookhaven Town forum on Nov. 28 to educate landlords about voucher programs and other housing issues. Bohemia November 20, 2023 Credit: Rick Kopstein

Amid a housing crunch that has sent home prices soaring, Brookhaven officials are offering a program aimed at educating landlords and real estate agents about the town's affordable housing programs.

Town officials said they will discuss voucher programs and take questions on other issues at a rental housing forum on Tuesday at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville. The forum, which starts at 9:30 a.m., is for landlords and real estate professionals only, officials said. 

The forum is the first offered by Brookhaven.

Brookhaven provides federal housing vouchers, also known as the Section 8 program, for town residents who meet income eligibility requirements. The program also is open to senior citizens and disabled residents.

Housing advocates say some landlords refuse to rent homes to people who use the vouchers to pay rent. New York State law bars landlords from refusing to rent space based on a potential tenant's source of income.

Eleven local real estate companies and brokers were sued in April in Nassau County Supreme Court by a housing nonprofit that said the defendants had refused to rent apartments to tenants who wished to use government vouchers.

“Unfortunately, Long Islanders are still running into issues of income discrimination,” said Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services, a Bohemia nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing and investigates suspected housing discrimination.

Some landlords are not aware of their legal responsibilities, making education crucial to expanding housing opportunities, Wilder said.

“That is a problem because housing is a determinant of life quality and there should be some sort of educational component," he said. 

In a statement, Brookhaven Housing and Community Development Commissioner Alison Karppi said the forum would address topics such as rent subsidy programs for tenants, housing quality and inspections, owner and tenant responsibilities, and support services for landlords and renters.

"The individuals and families we serve are working hard to improve their lives and are in need of a place to call home," she said.

The median home price in Suffolk County reached a record $600,000 in October, up 9.1% compared with October 2022, according to OneKey MLS, a real estate listing service based in Farmingdale. Experts attribute the spike to high mortgage rates and a scarcity of listings.

Irwin Izen, a Commack attorney who represents landlords, said programs like the one offered by Brookhaven are needed to "weed out the bad [landlords] from the good ones." State and federal laws can be bewildering to some landlords, he said, adding that the good ones nevertheless benefit from housing assistance programs because they provide a steady, reliable source of income.

“A program like this for the right landlord would be instrumental,” Izen said. “[For] a landlord who knows what they’re doing [and] who keeps the room clean and respectable, it’s a home run.”

For information on the Brookhaven forum, visit brookhavenny.gov/BrookhavenCARES or call 631-451-6600. 

Correction: An earlier version of the story gave an incorrect date on when the town planned to hold a rental housing forum.

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