ALBANY — Rebuffed by real estate agents the first time, the state Senate has slated a September hearing to gather testimony in an ongoing investigation of housing discrimination brought to light in Newsday’s “Long Island Divided” series.
The Senate on Sept. 17 will hear from agents and companies who ignored a request to testify at a December hearing and subsequently were subpoenaed to appear. In all, 31 subpoenas were issued to some of the biggest names in the business, including Coldwell Banker, RE/MAX, Keller Williams and Realty Connect USA.
“This is part two of what we need to do next, which is get those agents in front of us,” Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown), chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee, said Tuesday. “We’re waiting to hear what they have to say about what Newsday found.”
The September proceeding will be conducted online and will include a “policy panel” from the real-estate industry to help form policy proposals, Thomas said.
The Senate originally intended to hold the proceeding in spring but it was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Newsday’s three-year investigation found evidence of widespread separate and unequal treatment of minority homebuyers and minority communities on Long Island. The investigation deployed undercover “testers” carrying hidden cameras and microphones.
The findings included evidence that potential homebuyers were steered to neighborhoods based on race and that agents required preapproved mortgages from black customers but not white ones. Forty-nine percent of African-American testers received what housing experts deemed evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents; the number was 39% for Hispanic testers.
The state Senate rarely issues subpoenas but took the extraordinary step after just one out of 68 realty executives or agents accepted an invitation to testify at the chamber’s initial hearing on the subject in December at Hofstra University.