After Fifty-One Years, the Battle to Uphold Fair Housing Continues by Christopher Hull, Director Town of Hamburg Department of Community Development

The Town of Hamburg recently honored the 51st Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the “Fair Housing Act”.  While it has been 51 years since this enactment, it seems today, advancements and gains made throughout history may be reversing. Throughout the United States advancements made with the Civil Rights Act that were intended to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin to equal the playing field for all, have in fact taken several steps backward over the past years. In the Town of Hamburg where “Fair Housing” is taken seriously, there remains numerous instances of discrimination and unfair treatment of renters or homebuyers.

To acquaint you with the Town of Hamburg’s efforts pertaining to Fair Housing, the Town has had its own Fair Housing Law since 1986. This includes the following protections for all people: “It shall be unlawful to refuse to sell or rent or refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental or to dent any dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, disability, national origin, source of income, sexual orientation, military status, or because the person has a child or children”.  Further, the Town law specifically prohibits “source of income” discrimination which shall mean payments from any lawful occupation or employment, as well as other payments including but not limited to public assistance and security agreements, supplemental security income, pensions, annuities, unemployment benefits, government subsidies (such as Section 8), or any other housing subsidies.  The Town also became the first jurisdiction within Western New York to add “inclusionary zoning” within its Fair Housing Law, as well as in its planning and zoning codes.

As part of the major step forward for fair housing in 2018, Erie County also passed its own Fair Housing Law, which also exceeds federal and state laws in this regard. This was completed, in part, to the strong backing of current Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who was instrumental in getting this law passed through the Erie County Legislature. The County of Erie law also has provisions against “source of income” discrimination within its guidelines.

Following the lead of the Town of Hamburg and Erie County, New York State finally added “source of income” discrimination to its Human Rights Laws on April 12, 2019 with the following language,  To protect those who rely on any lawful source of income from discrimination in housing, New York now protects the following sources of income but are not limited to, child support, alimony or spousal maintenance, foster care subsidies, social security benefits, federal, state, or local public and housing assistance, or any other type of vouchers, or any other form of housing assistance, regardless of whether paid to the tenant or the landlord.

Whether you are in the Town of Hamburg, Erie County, or New York State, “source of income” discrimination is illegal!

The Town of Hamburg Department of Community Development has a mission to “Help build better neighborhoods and better communities” by providing numerous resources including financial assistance such as first-time home buyer, housing and mobile home renovation programs, homeless prevention, HUD, Zombie and foreclosure prevention, and inclusionary zoning programs. For further information contact the Town of Hamburg Department of Community Development at 716/648-6216 or visit us online.