Last month, a landmark court case, Short v. Manhattan Realty Inc., upheld the rights of tenants living with HIV/AIDS who receive government assistance. U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti ruled that Manhattan Apartment Inc. (MA) and Abba Realty Associates, Inc. (Abba), two of New York City’s largest realtors, were guilty of discriminating against persons receiving HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) benefits. At the time of his apartment search, plaintiff Keith Short was battling with AIDS and receiving support from HASA. Both MA and Abba “refused to assist Mr. Short because he was on HASA,” claiming that their apartments were not available to folks receiving government subsidies.
HASA is a NYC program that provides essential services to persons living with AIDS or clinical symptomatic HIV illness. The program operates under the assumption that without access to housing, folks’ immune systems will suffer and surviving with the disease will prove even more arduous. Therefore, housing is an essential tool in combating HIV/AIDS. To put it simply, housing is healthcare.
MA and Abba’s reasoning for not allowing HASA clients rent their apartments is illegal. In 2008, New York City Council passed Local Law 10 which prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on government subsidies, including HASA. What landlords often fail to acknowledge is that government subsidies are lawful sources of income. To deny tenants the ability to utilize governmental programs is to deny tenants their rights.
Many of the tenants that we work with receive some form of government assistance as a result of disability or other health concerns. The pain of enduring those experiences is hard enough. To then experience “insult, expense, and indignity of discrimination” as a result of those obstacles is unacceptable. In order to enhance the health and preserve the integrity of tenants in New York City, enforcing Local Law 10 is imperative.