Promoting Fair Housing: New Rochelle Company to Pay Damages After AG Finds Discrimination Against Low-Income Renters

In a significant development for fair housing in New Rochelle, Platzner International Group has reached a settlement with the state, agreeing to set aside housing units for low-income renters and pay damages after accusations of discrimination against Westchester residents with Section 8 housing vouchers. New York Attorney General Letitia James announced this landmark settlement, emphasizing its importance in ensuring equal housing opportunities for all.

Section 8 Housing Discrimination

Platzner International Group, a New Rochelle real estate company, has agreed to several key provisions in the settlement, marking a significant victory for housing equality. The company will set aside 20 units within its portfolio specifically for applicants using Section 8 housing vouchers or other housing subsidies. Additionally, they will pay $105,000 in damages and waive broker fees for five years for prospective tenants relying on housing subsidies.

The Impact of Discrimination

The accusations against Platzner International Group came from Westchester Residential Opportunities, a White Plains-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting affordable and accessible housing. An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office in 2021 revealed that the company had an explicit policy of refusing to rent units to Section 8 voucher holders in certain buildings. Apartment listings from the company included phrases like “Sorry, NO section 8,” while fair housing group representatives were explicitly told, “it does not take Section 8” at one of their properties.

The investigation further unearthed that the company’s rental applications contained intrusive questions about potential tenants’ sex and marital status, in addition to a $50 rental application fee, which violated New York state law that mandates such fees not exceed $20.

A Pledge to Fair Housing

To rectify these discriminatory practices, Platzner International Group is now required to implement an antidiscrimination policy, include in all rental listings that Section 8 vouchers will be accepted, and provide training to staff on relevant federal, state, and local fair housing laws. By pledging to uphold fair housing standards regardless of income source or assistance program, the city unambiguously conveys it will not accept or overlook housing discrimination in any form.

A Message from the New York Attorney General

The Attorney General underscored the necessity of the agreement by declaring that all residents of New York, irrespective of their means, merit having a place to call home. While the settlement marks meaningful progress in addressing discriminatory practices that have exacerbated New York’s affordable housing dilemma, a just solution requires ongoing efforts to ensure all community members, regardless of means, can secure suitable living arrangements through unprejudiced openness from property owners.

The Broader Impact

This case is not isolated but represents a broader issue surrounding housing discrimination based on source of income. Federal Section 8 voucher programs aim to help low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities access housing in the private market by subsidizing rental costs within that sector. Discriminating against such people on the basis of their inherent attributes contravenes statutes enacted to ensure equal access to housing and also infringes upon basic human dignities as delineated by legislation protecting fundamental civil liberties. As Marlene Zarfes, the executive director of Westchester Residential Opportunities, aptly put it, “Source of Income discrimination is widespread and targets the most vulnerable of our society. This settlement should remind housing providers of their equal housing obligations and help to increase housing opportunities for voucher holders.”

Conclusion

The settlement between Platzner International Group and the state of New York is a significant victory for fair housing and housing equality. Through enforcing accountability on the company for its discriminatory ways and mandating preventative safeguards for similar events down the line, this resolution helps clear a path towards a housing environment in and around New Rochelle defined more so by inclusion and impartiality than ever before. This statement underscores the fact that denying equal housing opportunities to any resident due to their financial means, such as those receiving Section 8 assistance, is unacceptable, as all community members deserve fair treatment in securing shelter regardless of their economic circumstances.

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