As part of the settlement announced by Hochul and Attorney General James, these three companies agreed to pay $115,000 for fair housing enforcement efforts, as well as compliance and training. Are there any other shoes to drop here?
Well, it’s really hard to know. But we do know that there were parallel investigations by the Attorney General and the New York State Department that looked at the evidence that press day published in its three-year investigation. As a result of these parallel investigations, we know that some of the individual officers who press day identified as problematic – from the perspective of their testing revealing evidence of disparate treatment – led the state to investigate their actions and possibly take disciplinary action – either a fine or action against the agents’ licenses individual real estate.
In his statement announcing the settlements, Hochul said New York has “zero tolerance” for discrimination. Did your investigation show that to be the case?
What we discovered early in our investigation was that it appeared that real estate agents on Long Island lacked fair housing standards. We found evidence that training was lacking, that some of the officers themselves either knew or didn’t know how to talk about school districts, for example, and avoid being accused of violating fair housing standards.
If you’re neutral about how you talk about a school district, or direct a buyer to independent data on a school’s performance, you won’t have trouble with Fair Housing Standards. But what we found was that, on a routine basis, many officers on Long Island spoke about the quality of school districts, in ways that led them to violate fair housing standards.
So, would you characterize these agents as confident that they could engage in these practices and get away with it?
We got the impression that there seemed to be a certain impunity with which they acted in some cases. We found that in the two decades that probably preceded our testing, very little actual testing had been done by government agencies, like the Department of State, which licenses real estate agents, or other agencies. governmental bodies, such as the Office of the Attorney General. We could not find evidence that many tests had been carried out.
Does this also mean that there was no penalizing action against them either?
We found no evidence that anyone tried to do what we did, which is large-scale testing. We performed 86 of these paired tests over 18 months of testing. We found no evidence that this widespread and detailed review, in effect a housing market check for fair housing standards, had been done for years.
We are aware of the settlement announced by the Governor and Attorney General, but beyond that, do you think anything has changed?
I believe the Long Island real estate industry took the results of our investigation seriously. They immediately came out and committed – at least the Long Island Board realtors – to do more from a training standpoint and make sure their training was up to date with current fair housing standards – national laws , local and federal. The largest group that operates in Albany and represents the umbrella of real estate companies in the state, engaged in the same, doing its own training and updating its training standard. So, if nothing else, the investigation has caught the attention of the industry. I think this will serve home buyers well in the future.
Keith, thank you very much for taking the time to discuss the investigation with us. We really appreciate that.
Good to be with you.