Judge Rules City's Human Rights Law Prohibits Landlords from Refusing Living in Communities Rent Vouchers for Homeless Families
FRIDAY, JULY 08, 2016

On July 7, 2016, the Court in Alston et al. v. Starrett City, Inc. et al. issued a decision declaring that the City's Human Rights Law prohibits landlords, including the defendant Spring Creek, formerly known as Starrett City, from refusing to accept the City's Living in Communities (LINC) rent vouchers for homeless families. The Court found that the "language and a fair reading of the subject statute should be interpreted liberally to include all forms of housing assistance…” and ordered Spring Creek, the largest privately owned rental complex in New York City, to process the plaintiff's application.

On August 26, 2015, The Legal Aid Society and Mayer Brown, LLP filed this action in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County alleging that the defendants, in violation of the New York City Human Rights law that prohibits discrimination based on source of income, refused to rent to them when the defendants learned they wanted to use the LINC voucher to pay the rent. The plaintiffs in this case are two homeless New Yorkers who sought to rent apartments from the defendants, and the Fair Housing Justice Center.

After Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to direct Starrett City, Inc. to process Plaintiffs’ applications free of any discriminatory practices, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint claiming that the prohibition against source of income discrimination does not require it to accept a LINC voucher. The Court denied Defendant’s motion, rejecting the contention that the statute was only intended to prevent discrimination against Section 8 voucher program participants. The Court further contended that this remedial statute should be read liberally and noted at least one other courts has deemed the statute applicable to other housing assistance programs. Accordingly, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion and directed Defendant to process her application “notwithstanding the basis of her source of income…”