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Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and BRI Urge State Senate to Approve Anti-Housing Discrimination Bill
WHITE PLAINS—The two leading realty and building advocacy organizations in Westchester County—the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors of White Plains and The Building and Realty Institute of Armonk—are urging State Senators to confront the region’s legacy of deliberate housing segregation by passing a bill that would eliminate discriminatory restrictive covenants that continue to exist in deeds throughout the state.
Specifically, the real estate trade organizations voiced their staunch support for the bill, A. 6152A (Philip Steck D-Colonie) / S. 4740A (James Sanders Jr., D-Rochdale Village, Far Rockaway). The bill, which recently passed through the New York State Assembly, would require the elimination of any illegal restrictive covenants prior to the sale of real estate, which would specifically perpetuate housing discrimination by forbidding sales based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, disability, national origin, source of income or ancestry.
“It is inconceivable that today’s homeowners would agree with the values and the intentions of this binding legal language. But it is also clear that absent strong motivation, it is easier to ignore the past than come to terms with and remedy past wrongs,” HGAR President Anthony Domathoti and BRI President Lisa DeRosa wrote in their April 7th letter to the Senators.
As with so many suburban and urban areas throughout the United States, restrictive covenants that perpetuate housing discrimination, particularly those that explicitly forbid sales of the property to buyers who are not “of the White or Caucasian race,” are still to be found in deeds throughout Westchester County and the communities of New York State, HGAR and BRI officials stated.
These covenants played a deliberate role in enforcing racial and other segregation in housing, particularly in suburban communities, throughout the 20th century. However, despite being illegal and declared unenforceable by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s, many of these covenants continued to be written into housing deeds for decades after the Supreme Court decision as both an implicit and explicit statement of values as to who was welcome within a community and who was not.
“It is important for those of us working in real estate, housing, and land use today to recognize the role that discrimination and prejudice played not just in the attitudes of previous generations of those who built, owned, or facilitated the sale of homes and property, but in the laws and the systems they set up,” the letter stated. “Restrictive covenants did not originate as some exception to our nation’s ideals. They were actively supported by Realtors, developers, neighborhood associations, the Public Works Administration that encouraged their widespread adoption before proposed projects within a community could be approved and the Federal Housing Administration, which would not provide financing for new housing in many communities absent these discriminatory clauses.”
They added that these restrictive covenants were designed “to promote one set of citizens over another, with a particular animus toward low- and middle-income African American families and other communities of color.
“We believe it is time for New York to join Maryland, Florida, Virginia, and New Jersey in requiring the removal of this poison from our laws and our homes,” the letter concluded.
HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty said it would be fitting if the State Senate joined the Assembly in passing S. 4740A during Fair Housing Month and Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law so that once and for all these discriminatory restrictive covenants can be eliminated in deed documents in New York State.