Photo: The Long Island Times/File
Trade Winds

Testing, testing

Residential brokers and sales agents are anxiously buzzing about a yet-to-be published story by Long Island’s daily newspaper on alleged violations of fair housing laws.

Sources say dozens of real estate agents for major area brokerage firms have been caught up in a multi-year Newsday investigation, aimed at uncovering fair-housing transgressions.

The federal Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. Protected classes include race, color, national, origin, religion, sex, familial, status and disability.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Testing for fair housing violations is typically initiated by the Department of State or nonprofit housing organizations.

Beginning in 2016, Newsday sent “testers” posing as potential homebuyers to real estate offices throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

In many of the cases, a white “homebuyer” would tell an agent his or her requirements (price range, proximity to the train, etc.), and be followed a few weeks later by a person of color with similar criteria to see whether the agent would steer them to different neighborhoods. The encounters were secretly videotaped.

However, brokers are calling the effort “gotcha journalism” and say the methodology used was flawed because testers’ requirements were not identical. It’s not clear when the story will finally be published.

For more information about fair housing laws or filing a housing discrimination complaint, visit the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

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Trade Winds

Trade Winds is written by journalists from the Long Island business community.