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We would like to thank the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations Assemblymember Titus and the Chair of the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations Senator Skoufis for the opportunity to provide our testimony today.
We are thankful that the Executive Budget includes statewide Source of Income protections. This proposal would amend New York State Human Rights Law to include a LSOI provision that protects individuals from discrimination who use government assistance or non-wage income to pay for housing, including Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), Social Security, disability, child support, retirement pensions, alimony, and veterans’ benefits, among others. We encourage members of the New York State Senate and Assembly to support the Governor’s LSOI proposal and include the same LSOI protections in their one-house budgets.
More than 576,000 low-income New Yorkers use government assistance to pay for housing, including elderly citizens, persons with disabilities, domestic violence survivors, homeless individuals, children, people of color, and veterans. Without LSOI protections, landlords can legally refuse to accept their money, leaving many homeless.
LSOI discrimination is pervasive and it perpetuates much of the widespread residential segregation found throughout New York State (1). Studies indicate that the success rate of Housing Choice Voucher holders in finding a decent home is significantly higher where local or state law protects against discrimination based on source of income (2). Further, source of income discrimination has a disproportionate and adverse impact on African Americans, Latinos, individuals with disabilities, and female-headed households; as each of these groups rely heavily on the Housing Choice Vouchers (3).
Across the country, LSOI legislation has been enacted in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin. Areas in New York State including the City of Buffalo, Erie County, the Town of Hamburg, Nassau County, New York City, the City of Rochester, Suffolk County, the City of Syracuse, Westchester County, and the Town of West Seneca have statutes that include expanded protections related to how housing costs are covered. However, these protections are not uniform in protections or in effectiveness. This demonstrates that it is now more important than ever to ensure that consistent statewide protections are in place.
The ability to expand lawful source of income protections statewide is particularly critical because demand for apartments affordable to low-income households is far higher than the supply. Nationally, only one in four eligible households receive rental assistance, and enacting source of income protection would promote true housing choice for New York’s lowest income families.
By establishing a statewide LSOI protection and equipping state and local agencies with resources for enforcement, you will demonstrate that leaders in Albany are serious about tackling injustices against our most vulnerable. Please make LSOI discrimination a priority this legislative session and support the Governor’s SOI proposal and include the same LSOI protections in your one-house budgets.
(1) John R. Logan and Brian Stults, “The Persistence of Segregation in the Metropolis: New Findings from the 2010 Census” Census Brief prepared for Project US2010 (2011), http://www.s4.brown.edu/us2010 [last accessed 8/23/16].(2) U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research, “Study on Section 8 Voucher Success Rates (Nov. 2001), pg. 3-17; see also Lance Freeman and Yunjing Li, “Do Source of Income (SOI) Anti-Discrimination Laws Facilitate Access to Better Neighborhoods?” Paper presented at the Association of Public Policy and Management Fall Research Conference (Nov. 2012) (finding that source of income laws have a “modest impact on locational outcomes with the largest relationship observed for neighborhood poverty rates.”).(3) African Americans comprise 15.6% of the New York State population, but comprise 38% of the State’s voucher holders. Latinos comprise 18.2% of the State’s population, but comprise 32% of the State’s voucher holders. Adults with disabilities comprise 13% of the New York State population, but comprise 34.5% of the voucher holders. Female-headed households comprise 20.7% of New York’s renter-occupied households, but comprise 34% of households receiving vouchers in New York.