New York State officials announced a $115,000 settlement Tuesday with three real estate companies on Long Island they allege engaged in a range of racially discriminatory housing practices, including steering Blacks and other people of color away from majority white communities.
The settlements, which include no admission of wrongdoing, came three years after an investigation by Newsday found “widespread separate and unequal treatment of minority potential homebuyers and minority communities on Long Island,” spurring investigations by the attorney general’s office and the Department of State.
The Newsday probe used hidden cameras to document interactions between real estate professionals and trained white testers posing as homebuyers and trained Black, Hispanic and Asian testers posing as homebuyers.
Both the Newsday probe and state government investigations allegedly turned up the same thing – rampant bias, with people of color typically receiving less favorable treatment.
These investigations have uncovered a pervasive culture of allowing unlawful discrimination and violations of every New Yorker’s right to fair housing.
“These investigations have uncovered a pervasive culture of allowing unlawful discrimination and violations of every New Yorker’s right to fair housing,” said Attorney General Letitia James in a press release announcing the settlement.
The settlements requires Keller Williams Greater Nassau and Keller Williams Realty Elite to pay $25,000 to Suffolk County for fair housing enforcement efforts, and another $25,000 on fair housing training for its agents.
A third company, Laffey Real Estate, is required to pay $35,000 to Suffolk County and $30,000 to the state to conduct unannounced fair housing testing. The company is also required to create an online form so that sellers and buyers can report potential acts of discrimination.
The attorney general’s office is conducting a separate investigation into another real estate brokerage.
“With these actions, we’re delivering a forceful message: New York state has zero tolerance for discrimination,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul in a press release.
A receptionist at Keller Williams Greater Nassau said no one was available to speak to the terms of the settlement, while calls to Keller Williams Realty Elite and Laffey Real Estate went unanswered.
Long Island is ranked among the most segregated areas of the country. In its investigation, which spanned three years, Newsday found that 40% of Black, Hispanic and Asian testers received disparate treatment when compared with white testers posing as homebuyers.
“Black testers experienced disparate treatment 49% of the time, compared with 39% for Hispanic and 19% for Asian testers,” according to Newsday.
In one instance, Newsday reported, a real estate agent for Keller Williams Realty told a tester posing as a Black customer that Brentwood, an overwhelmingly Hispanic and Black neighborhood, was filled with “the nicest people.”
However, the same agent warned a tester posing as a white customer, “please kindly do some research on the gang related events in that area for safety,” referring to the multiple murders connected to MS-13 in the neighborhood.