More than 100 New York real estate professionals accused of discriminating against tenants with government-issued vouchers

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NEW YORK — A new lawsuit alleges tenants with government-issued vouchers are being discriminated against.

More than 100 real estate professionals have been named accused of denying low-income New Yorkers access to homes, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Wednesday.

During the first quarter of this year, the median rent in Manhattan alone hit an all-time high of nearly $3,700 per month, according to StreetEasy.

“I looked for an apartment with a voucher for about three years. During those three years I was homeless,” Charisma White said.

BACKWARDS: Exclusive: Housing advocates report details alleged discrimination against New Yorkers with housing assistance

Getting an apartment with a government-issued voucher has always been difficult, but with the rental market boiling, many now say it seems impossible.

“In many cases, voucher holders struggle with mental health issues due to the barriers they face in obtaining stable housing,” said Jessica Valencia, voucher recipient.

For six months, the nonprofit watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative secretly posed as bondholders and contacted real estate agents to secure an apartment.

The organization shared a conversation.

“I have a CityFHEPS voucher. Could I use it here?” said a tester.

“No, the owners are not currently participating in any program,” replied a broker.

Such refusals are now the basis of a lawsuit against more than 120 real estate companies and brokers, accusing them of housing discrimination.

“I suggest to you that there is a tendency and a practice in New York at the very least to refuse to rent houses to homeless people, to people facing eviction who have vouchers,” said attorney Randolph McLaughlin.

Refusing to accept vouchers is against the law, and when this happens tenants are told to call a city agency which lawyers say is not adequately funded to investigate complaints.

“We lay that responsibility fairly, fully and frankly on New York City. Passing laws and not enforcing them might as well not care,” McLaughlin said.

Fueling instability for so many who are already on the brink.

Advocates are asking the mayor to allocate $1 million to enforce violations of the voucher program. New York City is not named in the lawsuit.

CBS2 reached out to many of those who wanted to comment, but they didn’t respond.

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