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Massive Lawsuit Accuses Dozens of Landlords, Brokers of Blatantly Refusing to Rent to New Yorkers with Housing Vouchers

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NEW YORK, NY —  New York City landlords and brokers, a housing watchdog group’s undercover investigators received variations of the same response: “We don’t take vouchers.”

That response, and dozens more like it, are detailed in a massive federal lawsuit filed Monday by the Housing Rights Initiative.

The lawsuit accused nearly 90 landlords and brokers of refusing to accept New Yorkers with housing vouchers — a group largely consisting of Black and Brown people, those facing homelessness or with disabilities.

“Defendants in this action are landlords and brokers who blatantly refuse to rent apartments to New Yorkers with vouchers,” the lawsuit states. “They do so in violation of local, state, and federal law, even as New York City faces a housing crisis and the ravages of a global pandemic.”

Housing Rights Initiative investigators began in 2017 after receiving complaints that many people and families couldn’t locate rental properties that would accept their vouchers, according to the lawsuit.

Investigators — “testers” in the lawsuit’s wording — conducted calls and inquiries about listed apartments, the complaint states. They discovered “rampant” income discrimination and routine refusal to accept vouchers, according to the lawsuit.

Those testers’ interactions with landlords and brokers are detailed in the lawsuit. A broker, when asked about an Upper West Side apartment, for example, told the test the landlord was “picky as hell,” according to the lawsuit.

“When the tester asked about using her Section 8 voucher, the representative replied there was ‘not a hope in hell,'” the lawsuit states. “She later stated ‘they don’t do vouchers.'”

Refusing to accept vouchers perpetuates discrimination against Black and Brown New Yorkers, continues segregation in the city and creates barriers to housing, the lawsuit states.

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