BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A local rental firm is now being held liable under Buffalo's fair housing ordinance after refusing to rent to a female college student.
Fair housing advocates accused the property owner and its rental agent of discriminating against a young woman because she would be paying with government rent vouchers. The City of Buffalo has specifically taken a stand against that practice.
Scott Gehl's fair housing group, and a young client have just struck a blow against discriminatory in housing. Gehl is executive director for HOME, or Housing Opportunities Made Equal, which represented a young woman who was looking to rent an apartment at this house in North Buffalo.
The woman, Naima Stewart, a college student would be using Section 8 vouchers to pay her rent but was rejected.
"HOME's view is that any time somebody is denied the opportunity to buy or rent housing for a reason that has nothing to do with their qualifications, that is discrimination," Gehl said.
Court papers show a representative of the property's owner, the Peterson Family Trust, when asked about the Section 8 vouchers specifically said, "No, it's not worth it."
HOME and the WNY Law Center sued using the city's new fair housing law that bans this kind of discrimination.
Joseph Kelemen of the WNY Law Center said, "The legislative intent was to basically level the playing field for everyone, and to not allow discrimination because of income, and I think the decision sends a strong message that the city is committed to that."
HOME also sent investigators to the rental company for the property to act as "testers," one saying she was using vouchers, the other without.
While the one without the vouchers was shown the apartment, the tester with the voucher was rejected.
"Housing discrimination denies people an equal access to education and employment, cultural and recreational opportunities, to medical care, to public services. It denies people an equal opportunity in life," Gehl said.
State Supreme Court Justice Patrick Nemoyer ruled in favor of Naima Stewart, finding she was a victim of housing discrimination. They return to court next month to assess damages the defendants should pay.
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