The current sessions in both Albany and in the New York City Council are now well under way, and housing-related bills are very much a part of the mix. Some of the bills have been around for years in one form or another, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less relevant—or less controversial.
News From New York City
One of the most controversial acts is the city proposal known as the Fair and Prompt Co-op Disclosure Act, first introduced in 2006 as Intro 119 and sponsored by Councilman Hiram Monserrate. Although the bill is fairly complicated, the simplest description of what it spells out is that it would require co-op boards to provide a reason when they reject a buyer after a specific time. (The bill has now become 119-a, the “Fair Cooperative Procedure Law,” which would, among other things, mandate a standardized admissions form for co-op buildings. Still, some co-op advocates say it is an improvement over the earlier version.)
Established co-op industry groups have, in general, opposed the idea of a mandated written reason for rejection of applicants. Most point out that current law already contains quite a few “protected classes” against whom the board cannot discriminate—categories including race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, military status, marital status, sexual orientation, family composition and citizenship. They also say it would discourage people from serving on boards.
Marolyn Davenport, senior vice president of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), says, “We feel that there would be so much liability involved that it would just increase lawsuits without going to the already-existing remedies.” As an effort toward fairness, she says, REBNY has already changed its recommended co-op application form to include a statement of purchasers’ rights as well as detailing what remedies and rights purchasers have if they are being discriminated against.
On the other hand, those in the City Council and civic organizations who support the bill, particularly members of minority communities, feel it is necessary because of the persistence of discrimination.