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Posted on: July 10, 2020

Fair Housing Task Force to Tackle Discrimination in Real Estate

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HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – A legislative task force created to address reports that extensive racial steering is occurring throughout communities in Suffolk will hold its first meeting soon.

The Suffolk County Legislature’s Fair Housing Task Force, comprised of experts in fair housing and leaders in county and state government, will convene on July 14 after its initial meeting was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has been charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the county’s existing human rights law and providing recommendations to improve and strengthen the law to deter behavior that discriminates against individuals seeking to purchase a home in Suffolk County.

The agenda for the July 14 meeting includes a discussion of the group’s mission, goals, and expectations. The task force will hold public hearings to solicit feedback and ideas from residents, experts, and advocates and will provide the legislature and the County Executive with a written report of its findings and determinations.

“Reports have exposed how the lingering effects of red-lining have continued to pervade the housing market in Suffolk County, and while our human rights law prohibits housing discrimination, it is clear that the law needs to be strengthened,” said Presiding Officer Rob Calarco. “I am eager for the task force to begin its work so that we can tear down systems of discrimination and promote inclusion in Suffolk County neighborhoods.”

The Fair Housing Task Force was established by a resolution unanimously approved by the Suffolk County Legislature on Dec. 17, 2019 after evidence of steering housing consumers on the basis of race came to light in a Newsday investigative report. The resolution was sponsored by former presiding officer DuWayne Gregory and was co-sponsored by Presiding Officer Calarco and Legislator Samuel Gonzalez, who will serve as the task force’s chair.

“I was extremely disappointed to find out that members of the local real-estate industry may have contributed to race-based housing discrimination and segregation in Suffolk County. This is unacceptable. Where one lives affects relationships, property values, taxes, employment opportunities, and health just to name a few. According to Jessica Owens-Young, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Studies at American University, ‘Your neighborhood determines your lifespan by as much as 30 years,’” said Legislator Gonzalez. “As the chair of the newly established Fair Housing Task Force, I am deeply committed to strengthening the existing county human rights law in a manner that will deter unscrupulous individuals from engaging in illegal housing discrimination in Suffolk County.”

Joining Gonzalez on the task force will be Legislator Steven Flotteron; Dawn Lott, executive director of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission; Lynda Perdomo-Ayala, chair of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission; Dr. Georgette Grier-Key representing the NAACP; Liza Milgrim from the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association; Elaine Gross representing Erase Racism; Bo Patten representing the Long Island Board of Realtors; Froebel Chungata, Long Island regional director of the New York State Division of Human Rights; and fair housing advocates Sharon Mullen from the Long Island Housing Partnership and Nancy Vargas-Johnson.

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