New York State Attorney General Letitia James is suing an Ithaca landlord for allegedly denying housing to low-income tenants.
Landlord Jason Fane, his company Ithaca Renting Company, and his related entities are all subject to the suit.
An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Mr. Fane and his real estate agents refused to accept Section 8 vouchers at his properties, in violation of New York’s housing laws against source of income discrimination. The lawsuit alleges that agents at Ithaca Renting repeatedly told renters they do not accept government assistance vouchers. Through her lawsuit, Attorney General James is seeking to require Mr. Fane to stop denying housing to New Yorkers with Section 8 vouchers, pay civil penalties, and set aside five percent of his residential housing units exclusively for Section 8 vouchers.
“All New Yorkers deserve access to fair and decent housing, regardless of their station in life,” said Attorney General James. “Denying housing to New Yorkers based on their source of income is not only illegal, but it’s also worsening the housing crisis. We are taking action to protect vulnerable tenants, keep New Yorkers in their homes, and enforce the law.”
“Housing is a basic human right. There is clear data demonstrating that access to housing stabilizes the entire community, increases public safety, and supports the economy,” said State Assemblymember Anna Kelles. “Even landlords, especially small landlords need regulations and protections and each one is hurt by the bad actors in a community. Housing should not be exclusively a commodity market. It must be balanced with human rights and dignity. I applaud Attorney General James for investigating and holding potential bad actors accountable.”
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program provides housing assistance to the lowest-income households in New York to rent or purchase decent, safe housing in the private housing market. The program also provides assistance to senior citizens and disabled persons on fixed incomes, displaced families, and homeless individuals with disabilities. New York’s executive law clearly states that it is unlawful and discriminatory to deny housing to individuals based on their source of income.
The OAG opened an investigation into Ithaca Renting and Mr. Fane after receiving complaints from individuals who were denied housing for having a Section 8 voucher. The lawsuit alleges that an individual who was already living in an apartment managed by Mr. Fane was denied housing by Mr. Fane’s agent because of her Section 8 voucher.
The lawsuit also alleges a housing advocate was assisting a homeless man, who was granted a Section 8 voucher, to find an apartment in downtown Ithaca. The housing advocate contacted two agents who worked at different properties owned by Mr. Fane and both agents told the advocate they do not accept Section 8 vouchers. The lawsuit alleges this led to the homeless man remaining homeless for at least another year.
Mr. Fane and his related entities own 18 properties with more than 500 residential units. During OAG’s investigation, several of Mr. Fane’s agents repeatedly told OAG that they “choose not to participate in the Section 8 voucher program.” These employees, some of whom worked there for years, would not answer where or who they learned this policy from or who created it.
James is seeking to require Fane to stop his illegal practice of denying housing to those with Section 8 vouchers, and to pay $300,000 in civil penalties, reform polices and trainings for agents, and set aside five percent of his residential housing units exclusively for Section 8 vouchers.
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