Gov. Hochul Puts Insurers on Notice Not to Discriminate Based on Source of Income, Affordable Units in Dwelling

The Department of Financial Services sent a “Circular Letter” on Monday to all insurers advising them of the prohibitions.

Gov. Hochul Puts Insurers on Notice Not to Discriminate Based on Source of Income, Affordable Units in Dwelling

ALBANY—New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on June 24 new guidance informing insurers that they are prohibited from inquiring about or making coverage decisions based on a property’s status as an affordable housing development or on the level or source of a tenant’s income within the building, such as government assistance. 

The guidance from the New York State Department of Financial Services follows legislation secured by Governor Hochul as part of the FY 2025 Budget to prohibit discrimination in insurance based on tenants’ source of income or the existence of affordable dwelling units within the building. 

The Department of Financial Services sent a “Circular Letter” on Monday to all insurers authorized to write property/casualty insurance in New York State, licensed insurance producers, the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association, and the Excess Line Association of New York advising them of the prohibitions.

“With this new guidance, we are putting insurers on notice: New York will not tolerate bias against our affordable housing providers,” Gov. Hochul said. “Insurance discrimination drives up costs for property owners and renters and puts countless affordable homes at risk. My administration is stepping up our enforcement of housing discrimination of all kinds to ensure fairness in our housing market and to keep costs down for all New Yorkers.”

New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Adrienne A. Harris said, “This is a critical step to ensure that New York’s affordable housing providers are not discriminated against. I am incredibly proud of the work that this Department has done to address discrimination, in service of our mission to build a more equitable financial services system.”   

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Tenants all over New York face barriers to housing based on their source of income, including Section 8 voucher status. Stigma against Section 8 voucher recipients and tenants that live in affordable housing is discriminatory, whether it’s done by an insurance provider to set insurance rates or by a housing provider to exclude residents from housing accommodations. This law that the Governor championed will ensure that discrimination is not tolerated in NY, thereby creating avenues of access and affordability both for tenants and housing providers. This is another step toward ensuring our investments in affordable housing are not diminished by excessive insurance costs, allowing us to continue to provide housing opportunities for New Yorkers.”

Insurers are prohibited from inquiring about or considering, canceling, refusing to issue or renew, increasing the premium of, or excluding, limiting, restricting or reducing coverage based on:  

  • The presence of dwelling units in the building that are affordable to residents at a specific income level pursuant to a government agreement;
  • The receipt of governmental rental assistance by the owner or tenants of a residential rental building, or the shareholders of a cooperative housing corporation;
  • The level or source of income of the building’s residents; or
  • Whether the building is owned by a limited equity cooperative, a public housing authority, or a cooperative housing corporation subject to certain provisions of the private housing finance law.

The legislation comes on the heels of a report published in November 2022 in which DFS, in conjunction with New York State Homes and Community Renewal, reviewed the practices of property/casualty insurance companies regarding buildings with affordable or subsidized housing units. In addition, the two agencies engaged with developers of affordable housing, who indicated they had experienced significant premium increases or difficulty obtaining policies for affordable housing developments. 

As part of the FY 2025 Budget, Gov. Hochul secured a landmark housing agreement to increase New York’s housing supply, protect tenants and homeowners, and combat discrimination against Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher recipients and affordable housing providers. In addition, the governor secured funding for a five-year, $25 billion Housing Plan to build and preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing as part of the FY 2023 Budget. 

This guidance also builds on the governor’s fair housing agenda to root out housing discrimination in New York State. The governor announced a $2.2-million expansion of New York's Fair Housing Testing Program designed to root out discrimination in home rental and sale transactions. New York is partnering with six nonprofit organizations across the state to deploy undercover testers to act as potential renters and home seekers. The expansion has increased the state's ability to proactively investigate suspected housing discrimination and to enhance education and outreach efforts on fair housing rights and requirements to landlords, tenants, real estate professionals, and local governments. The governor has also signed landmark legislation to increase protections for New Yorkers against housing discrimination. 

New Yorkers who experience unlawful discrimination in housing can file a complaint with DHR online or by calling 1-888-392-3644. 

Real Estate In-Depth

Real Estate In-Depth is the official publication of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

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