On December 4, 2012, Housing works reported a landmark decision that found NYC’s second largest realtor guilty of housing discrimination against people living with AIDS. District Court Judge Samuel Conti ruled in Short v. Manhattan Apartments, Inc. that two New York City Realtors, Manhattan Apartments, Inc. (MA) and Abba Realty Associates, Inc. (Abba), discriminated against Keith Short and other individuals, who have AIDS, on the basis of their disability and because of their source of income--New York City’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) rental assistance program.
Mr. Short, a 45-year-old disabled man who suffers from AIDS, attempted to rent apartments from various real estate brokers, including MA. Mr. Short planned to finance his rent with a subsidy from HASA. MA allegedly refused to show him Mr. Short any apartments merely because of his disability and his source of financing the unit. As a result Mr. Short was homelessness for several months.
Mr. Short contacted the Fair Housing Justice Center ("FJHC"). FJHC accepted his case and sent testers to assess MA's rental practices. Testers tape record their interactions. MA employees allegedly refused to show apartments to FJHC testers using HASA financing, notwithstanding that MA, at the same time, actively tried to rent apartments in the same price range to non-disabled testers.
In his ruling, Judge Conti concluded that the evidence showed that MA refused to assist Mr. Short because he received HASA rental assistance benefits. He also ruled that evidence established that Abba likewise refused to show HASA clients certain apartments because, those apartments were not available to persons with HASA or other government rental subsidies. More significantly, Judge Conti observed that, discrimination in this context is particularly damaging because for people with AIDS, ‘housing is healthcare.”
In a similar vein, Fred Freiberg, executive director of FHJC, said, “The unmistakable message in this decision for housing a provider is that source of income discrimination will not be tolerated…”
Judge Conti awarded both Mr. Short and FHJC compensatory damages and issued an injunction prohibiting the defendants from discriminating on the basis of a lawful source of income and requiring the defendants, among other things, to undergo fair housing training and to adopt and post non-discrimination policies.