The Fortune Society is a leading reentry organization in New York City. After one of its clients’ rental applications was rejected based solely on his record of conviction, Fortune Society undertook an investigation of the screening practices of iAfford, a gatekeeper agency for affordable housing units across all five boroughs. Although the returning citizen population desperately needs access to safe and affordable housing, Plaintiff’s investigation showed that iAfford categorically bars people with a record of criminal legal involvement, regardless of individual circumstances. Given the racial composition of those embroiled in the criminal legal system in this country, iAfford’s exclusionary practices disproportionately block Black and Latino applicants’ access to the affordable housing units it markets.
iAfford markets hundreds, if not thousands, of affordable units across New York City, meaning that this exclusionary conduct has a significant impact. Worse yet, iAfford has tried to disguise its discriminatory practice as required by the City’s Housing and Preservation Department (“HPD”), which oversees the City’s affordable housing program. Yet HPD expressly rejects categorical exclusions and instead requires its marketing agents to undertake an individualized review of applicants with a history of criminal legal involvement. iAfford is refusing to use this less discriminatory practice and, in so refusing, is not only violating the law, but also flouting HPD’s requirements.
Plaintiffs filed the case on October 28, 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the Complaint alleges that iAfford’s practice has a disparate impact based on race, color, and/or national origin. The race-based disparities are so profound, and the blanket ban so unnecessary, that iAfford’s practices also give rise to an inference of discriminatory intent. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent iAfford from continuing this discriminatory practice. It also seeks damages to compensate the Fortune Society for the resources diverted to investigating and counteracting iAfford’s conduct.
Case Citation: The Fortune Society, Inc. v. iAfford NY, LLC, No. 1:22-cv-06584 (E.D.N.Y.)