NEW YORK (PIX11) — Susan Negron is ready, willing and able to move into a better apartment closer to her job in Washington Heights, Manhattan. She has been for years, but things have yet to work out.
“I’ve never had a chance. Never. I’ve had this voucher for years,” said Negron.
Negron, a trained nurse, said things tend to go south pretty quickly when the conversation turns to how she intends to pay the rent.
“I’ve even gone up to buildings, landlords, management teams, in my scrubs. And they look at me, and they smile and engage, and they’re nice. Once we get to the income part and I say ‘vouchers,’ everything changes. It’s either hostility, humiliation, embarrassment, disrespect, or if not, I get completely ghosted,” Negron said.
Negron is not an isolated case. The nonprofit Unlock NYC has been tracking reports of housing discrimination and documented some 1,500 cases over the last two years alone. Its map tells the story – tenants reporting being discriminated against because they are holding vouchers – in every corner of New York City.
The head of data and advocacy for Unlock NYC said some rental listings even state “no city vouchers.”
“That’s totally illegal. It really feels like the city is caging in on voucher holders. They have fewer and fewer neighborhoods where they can go,” said Manon Vergerio.
“Housing vouchers are one of the most important tools in our effort to address the affordability crisis,” Mayor Eric Adams told PIX11 News. “But we still hear from far too many New Yorkers who have experienced source-of-income discrimination, preventing them from using their vouchers and keeping them in the shelter system.”
A spokesperson for the mayor adds the administration recently earmarked $3.1 million for outsourcing additional landlord investigations.
Additionally, the administration is staffing up the City Commission on Human Rights for more city enforcement, along with plans for more direct city-to-landlord intervention.
PIX11 News spoke with Itay Gamlieli, CEO of Avenues Real Estate, which has previously been cited by Unlock NYC for alleged housing discrimination .
“There’s zero reason you can come up with for a broker to say no for a voucher tenant. The issue always comes up with the landlord, unfortunately. Unfortunately, the broker is in a situation where the landlords tell them in some cases, ‘keep bring those vouchers to me and you will no longer have my business,'” said Gamlieli.
But a broker’s hardship is no consolation to prospective renter Negron.
“We’re human beings. We’re not animals. And we want a chance. We want a chance to make a living, to progress,” said Negron.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Vergerio. The story has been updated.