Groups Take Up Housing Issues

You know it’s something when they take down the paywall. Newsday’s report on Long Island housing discrimination is free to view and a forum on it was open to the public earlier this week in Melville.

In attendance were many progressive groups and perhaps fewer of the people that such groups serve.

Represented were the Economic Opportunity Council, the Urban League, Little Flower, Huntington
Housing Coalition, Long Island Progressive Coalition, the N.A.A.C.P., Long Island Builders Institute,
Erase Racism, Long Island Housing Service, Habitat for Humanity, Planned Parenthood, the Democratic Socialists of America, Multicultural Solidarity, and a staffer from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office.

The evening opened with an interactive survey intended to track in real time, the room’s demographic (53% Black/African American, 41% White, 3% Bi/Multiracial, the remainder Asian and Hispanic/Latinx) and responses to questions like, “how are you currently feeling about the issue of housing and discrimination?”

Top responses were, “angry,” “frustrated” and “overwhelmed.” Most survey responders
lived in Huntington, Wheatley Heights and Huntington Station and 92% of responders felt they had been discriminated against.

Next was a presentation by Erase Racism’s founder, Elaine Gross, to discuss the facets of the 1968 Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, handicap and family status. It was clear then to attendees listening to Newsday reporters Olivia Winslow and Keith Herbert discuss the investigation that many Long Island realtors had violated the Fair Housing Act.

A couple of hidden camera videos were played and the audience was vocally familiar with the realtor vs. tester scenes playing out.

Where do we go from here? A panel composed of Gary Johnson of the N.A.A.C.P., Les Bluestone, an affordable housing developer from Blue Sea Development, Kevin Lore of the Long Island Association and Elaine Gross closed the forum.

Responding to a query, Gross said Erase Racism runs high school and middle school student conferences to educate kids on structural racism on Long Island.

Johnson advised increased cognizance when approaching the housing marketplace, which is made up of many more participants than just a realtor. “Structure is very important,” he said, and change requires that activists sit on planning boards. Bluestone also advised involvement in the planning side of housing.

Lore said the Long Island Housing Partnership is currently raising money to train brokers as “education is just as important as enforcement,” he said. He spoke about desiring to give millennials more reason to stay on Long Island. There were not many millennials in the audience

Theresa Sanders, president and CEO of the Urban League of Long Island, said after the event that there are mechanisms for reporting housing discrimination. If you believe you have been discriminated against in your quest for a home, call Long Island Housing Services at 631-567-5111 ext. 375 or email [email protected].

Newsday Investigation Finds Extensive Housing Discrimination

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