A neighborhood of houses in Elmont, NY is seen in...

A neighborhood of houses in Elmont, NY is seen in this aerial photo on July 1, 2019. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

ALBANY — The Hochul administration announced Friday it’s approved a set of contracts to continue anti-discrimination investigations sparked by “Long Island Divided,” a Newsday series looking into real estate housing practices.

The administration earmarked $2.2 million for six nonprofit housing organizations to deploy undercover testers to act as potential homebuyers and renters to ensure sellers and agents are following the state’s fair housing laws.

It’s a continuation of New York’s “Fair Housing Testing Program,” which was launched nearly three years ago, though the initial funding source had been effectively depleted. The $2.2 million had been approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul and state legislators last year, but organizations had to apply for the funds and have contracts approved.

"As we expand access to housing across New York State, I am using all of the resources at my disposal to combat housing discrimination and ensure that all New Yorkers are treated with dignity, fairness and respect when seeking the housing of their choice," Hochul said in a statement.

“We’re elated. It allows us to continue the program, which is good,” said Ian Wilder, executive director of Long Island Housing Services, one of the groups overseeing the testing. “We haven’t had this level of funding before from New York state.”

Newsday’s “Long Island Divided” series found widespread unequal treatment of minority homebuyers on the Island, including some real estate agents steering customers to or away from certain neighborhoods based on race.

The series sparked lawmakers to approve a range of new laws, including increasing fines for violating housing discrimination laws, mandating more anti-bias training and increasing biannual brokers’ fees to help pay for deploying undercover homebuyers.

In 2020, lawmakers tapped $4.5 million from a state settlement in a banking lawsuit to launch the undercover testing program for two years. The contracts announced Friday continue funding at essentially the same rate.

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