Rustin Low

Loophole Discrimination

Rustin Low
Loophole Discrimination

I found my brain racing and my cheeks flushing hot last night as I got around to reading Sunday's edition of The Times. There was an article about co-op boards and rejections - something I spent a large part of last week focused on. I have a lot to say about the subject that's pretty hot on the mind, and that article was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

So I had this one client, right? A young, amazing, ambitious, and outgoing gay guy that I had an absolute blast working with. He was ready to stop renting and purchase his first home - he was excited to own and I was excited to help him get there. The first place he put an offer in on we lost to a higher bidder. Damn. I was concerned after being outbid on the one he loved that we wouldn't find another he felt equally comfortable offering on - but luckily, that concern was laid to rest when he stepped foot in a spot the following week that just felt right. They always say when you know, you know, ya know?

The thing about this apartment is that it was a co-op. If you aren't familiar with NYC real estate you need to know that co-ops are buildings that require a board interview (much like a job interview, except a lot lot lot more personal, and with a big ass file of all your financial and personal information in front of the interviewers) before you can purchase the apartment - regardless of your financial ability to buy said apartment. That right - if you have the money to buy the place, you have to first get permission to buy it. The absolute worst part of this is that if they decide to reject your application, they don't have to tell you why. But I digress, back to the story.

Fast forward to past the negotiations, the offer, the paperwork, etc., and we get to the board process. A million things start to cross my mind - what if they are homophobic? What if they think he's too young? What if they don't like his job? What if - what if - what if? My client asked for updates, I told him the truth - nothing to do but wait and pray. I checked my email compulsively, I ran through possible hard conversations that might be in my future, I asked everyone possible for updates, I gained a few stress wrinkles and lost a few hairs. Finally the approval comes, and I'm able to call my client with the news and the feeling of dread that I've been walking around with lifts.

Luckily, I've yet to have to let a client know that they have been rejected by the board, and I'm hoping I never need to. I do my absolute best to coach my clients through the interview with the highest possible chance of being accepted, but if they aren't, I believe they deserve to know why. The only color you're legally allowed to discriminate against in this amazing city is green. If someone doesn't make the money for the property, that's the end of that. That's how this city works. Or that's how it works on paper. But if a board decides that a potential buyer's skin is too dark, or their voice is too feminine, how in the hell are we as citizens supposed to expect justice when those behind closed doors aren't required to explain themselves?

In my personal opinion the process is archaic, and provides too much of an opportunity for injustice to go unnoticed. In my professional opinion, I'll continue to do my absolute best to coach every client I can through a board approval until legislatures come up with a more modern and fair solution.