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More than 100 NYC real estate professionals accused of discriminating against renters with government-issued vouchers

Lawsuit alleges discrimination against renters with vouchers
Lawsuit alleges discrimination against renters with vouchers 01:01

NEW YORK -- A new lawsuit alleges renters with government-issued vouchers are being discriminated against.

More than 100 real estate professionals were named, accused of denying low-income New Yorkers access to a home, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Wednesday.

During the fist quarter of this year, the median rent in Manhattan alone reached a record high of nearly $3,700 a month, according to StreetEasy.

"I've searched for an apartment with a voucher for roughly three years. During those three years, I was homeless," Charisma White said.

FLASHBACKExclusive: Housing Advocates' Report Details Alleged Discrimination Against New Yorkers With Rental Assistance  

Getting an apartment with a government-issued voucher has always been difficult, but with the hot rental market many say now it seems impossible.

"In many cases, voucher holders struggle with mental health issues as a result of the obstacles they face to obtain stable housing," voucher recipient Jessica Valencia said.

For six months, nonprofit watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative secretly posed as voucher holders and contacted realtors to get an apartment.

The organization shared one conversation.

"I do have a CityFHEPS voucher. Would I be able to use that here?" one tester said.

"No, the owners are not currently participating in any programs," a broker responded.

Refusals like this are now the basis of a lawsuit against more than 120 real estate companies and brokers, accusing them of housing discrimination.

"I suggest to you there's a pattern and practice in New York City at the very least of refusing to rent homes to homeless people, folks facing evictions who have vouchers," attorney Randolph McLaughlin said.

Refusing to accept vouchers is against the law, and when it happens renters are told to call a city agency advocates say isn't adequately funded to investigate complaints.

"We put this responsibility fairly, fully and squarely on the city of New York. Passing laws without enforcing laws, you might as well just not bother," McLaughlin said.

Fueling instability for so many who are already on the brink.

Advocates are calling on the mayor to allocate $1 million to enforcing violations to the voucher program. New York City is not a named in the lawsuit.

CBS2 reached out to many of those who are for comment, but they have not responded.  

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