real estate

Does It Violate Housing Codes to Market a Residential Apartment Building To The Gays?

That developers and real estate agents market certain buildings to certain demographics (yuppies! hipsters! bankers! philanderers!) is no secret. But often they run afoul of local housing discrimination codes and the federal Fair Housing Act. In New York City, it is illegal (PDF) to consider race, color, religion, nationality, gender, sexual preference, age, marital status, disability, immigrant status, legal occupation, or whether children will be living with them when determining a renter or buyer’s qualifications. That’s why Craigslist and Village Voice ads can land their listers in trouble when they say a condo is “ideal for bachelors” (discriminates against married folks) or “perfect for college grads” (discriminates against seniors).

We’ll leave it to state attorneys general — or our J.D.-holding readers — to figure out whether certain advertising encourages such discrimination, but we’ll present this gay case study for the new Port 10 building on Manhattan’s West 28th Street. A Curbed source (the developer?) says it’ll be the “first gay marketed apartment building in NYC.”

Does that run afoul of housing codes prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation? Namely, heterosexuality?

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  • andy

    I live nearby this place. The shorter one looks like a woman. If you see the 30 ft banner in person you would know that the sex of the shorter one is ambiguous. I think it’s a woman, but it’s a hard call. People on the street stare at this with a look of “what is it”.

  • Nicholas

    I dont think it is offensive to straights because i see more gays and bis attacked then a straight person so why would they say its an issue its a safety home thats what i think

  • Mark

    Um, yes. It obviously does.

  • rf

    All depends on how they do it. advertising in gay publications/ websites is not a violation. showing two men holding hands in an ad is not a violation. using ANY WORDS to specify the sexual orientation or any characteristic of a protected class of potential inhabitants, or to characterize the neighborhood, etc. is a violation.

  • Timothy

    Of course not… so long as you don’t disallow heterosexuals. For example, bars that cater to gays may do so openly. They may have clear signage that lets all parties know that it’s a gay bar. But (at least in CA), they cannot refuse service or entry based on sexual orientation.

    And, in reality, advertising to the gay community does not inherently exclude heterosexuals. There are many straight folk that are part of the community.

    Some single hetero women would immediately see a rainbow flag as an indication that this was a place that they’d feel at home. And I know straight married couples that socialize exclusively in gay settings. I even know a few single straight men who would prefer living in a “gay building”.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @Timothy: Exactly. Yours is the only correct legal answer. You can market to whoever you want. Indeed, many people do. Hence straight, Christian, white, middle class galore. No one thinks those ads are legally discriminating. They may think so culturally, but no one is bringing a cause of action based on it. This is a non-controversy.

  • alan brickman

    homophobes will sue and make money…..

  • jason

    You often see real estate agencies or developers featuring the traditional nuclear family in their advertising for housing estates, for instance. This is a form of exclusion of gay people.

    As for whether they should market to gay people, I’m not opposed to it per se. But it does raise the issue of whether we in the gay community are creating new closets for ourselves. On the one hand, we say we don’t want to live in the closet – ie be a free gay person – but on the other hand we tend to create new enclaves, which I refer to as quasi closets.

  • Kieran

    If this were a picture of a straight couple holding hands nobody would think a thing about it. But a picture of two guys holding hands violates housing codes and ofcourse the basic laws of Homophobia.


    this isnt a “gay” ad.. it says “bye mom and dad” with two young guys. ala “hey were just moving out and getting our first own place”

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @Kieran: Welcome to what AAs used to experience. THe very act of pointing out our existence in business or advertising or entertainment is “bigotted.” But let a character who was formerly black be cast as white, and well that’s just the way things are. They were looking for the best talent,a nd blah, blah blah. Bigotry it seems never changes how it works, but it does change groups.

  • jason

    The person on the right is a woman. You can tell from the hips.

  • Sammy

    Actually, discrimination in hiring does not require absolute disallowance to break the law. Most jurisprudence around such would say that specifically advertising in a way so as to make a reasonable person believe that they are not allowed to rent in such a building is enough to make it illegal. This might border on that, but I tend to say it’s safe enough. Housing is different than a gay bar.

  • Lady Ga-Gasp

    In my experience, when they market any resort or housing complex, or god knows any GM product or vice to the gays, its because the fat old straight farts selling whatever it is are desperate, and think we are an easy mark. To our credit, we largely ignore the entreaties.

  • rf

    @D’oh, The Magnificent: at#6 – actually D’oh, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my answer and you are wrong if you think you can market real estate to specific groups like you can with other businesses like a gay bar (even if they are totally inclusive of all). ANY inference, no matter how subtle, to a specific type of person in a real estate ad is held to a very high level of scrutiny. In addition to queerty’s examples above, even really innocuous words like “walk to all” and “desirable location” are grounds for investigations: walk to all infers discrimination against the wheelchair bound, desirable location? desirable to whom? the Jews who can go to the temple down the street? the people with kids cuz its near a school? And you better believe that rival real estate agencies rat out their competitors all the time as do disgruntled members of the public. having said that, real estate companies violate fair housing laws so much, its often hard to tell what’s allowed and what’s not.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @rf: .You have no idea what you are talking about. I will let others figure that out for themselves if they are truly curious about the legal issues.

  • Sammy

    RF is correct. D’oh, you’re not. Sorry but he is right. The FHA applies not only to intentional housing discrimination, but to all policies or practices which have a discriminatory effect, even absent discriminatory intent. Generally discrimination in housing is scrutinized far more than discrimination in marketing for a bar or some other service.

  • chango

    D’oh, The Magnificent
    @Timothy: Exactly. Yours is the only correct legal answer. You can market to whoever you want.

    Please tell me you don’t practice law.

  • damon459

    I don’t see the issue I mean they have trailer parks and other developments all over the country that are only for people 55+ with no kids living with them. Housing discrimination happens all the time whether directly advertised or otherwise besides 90% of all neighborhoods are straight what’s wrong with a us pushing them out for a change?

  • Peter

    Sounds like the potential buyer or renter has ‘no responsibility’ for looking over the place being offered. Does the seller have to guarantee that you will be totally happy there???

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @Sammy: I am glad you know terms like FHA. You have no idea what you are talking about. Please stop pretending like you do.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @chango: I have a legal background. One can market to whomever and indeed can be selective in one’s advertisement. Indeed, when one thinks about it- it would be impossible not to exclude someone in one’s advertisement. The only real limitation is that one can not deny someone housing- not to whom one advertises. I am not even sure fair housing laws address orientation at all. Some cities and states may, but I am not sure what, if any impact, occurred with the recent efforts by the president regarding federal housing rules and the LGBT community. I know there were some changes. However, absolutely none of this affects advertising- which several people erroneously conflate along the thread- as the same as whether one can exclude in the actual renting of the apartments.

  • Alex

    No, obviously, at least this ad is fine. Would it be discriminatory to show a straight couple in your ad? Obviously not.

  • rf

    @D’oh, The Magnificent: Its astounding when someone who claims a legal background and expounds on their knowledge of fair housing laws doesn’t know that many states do in fact add other protected classes such as sexual orientation to their fair housing laws. I live in and own rental properties in one. All marketing to the public falling under the Federal Fair Housing laws–which is anything having to do with buying, selling, and renting dwellings are regulated by a comprehensive guide of all of the words and ways that will get you in trouble with those fair housing laws. You cannot advertise in real estate to specific groups either explicitly or implicitly–right down to the types of people in your ads and the words you use about the tenants, buyers, sellers, landlords, neighborhood, buildings, and even unrelated places in the general vicinity. The list is both specific and all encompassing. I’m sure you’ve seen it as you know what you are talking about. However, I will be happy to send you a link if your google is broken.

    If you think otherwise, go right ahead and advertise your apartment/home as “perfect for black people” and see how far you get.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @rf: What astounds me is that you think I believe for one second you k now what you are talking about when in fact I know you don’t.

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @rf: By the way, next time I see an advertising ad for an apartment including a white couple with children, I will be sure to bring it up to the FHA. Because we all know such ads are non existent.

  • rf

    D’Oh – If your theoretical apartment building advertises in several places and only includes white couples with children in their ads, you would have a case. Or if one ad included two or three white couples with children (and no minorities) you would also have a case. But instead of bringing it up to the FHA, as you suggest, you should bring it up to HUD as they are the ones that administer the Fair Housing Act. The FHA would be interested in guaranteeing you a mortgage you can’t afford but not your discrimination case.

    Here’s the short version:

    Here’s the full part of the Fair Housing laws that deal with advertising (and in case you miss it, this is from the Federal Register–that’s the place where the govt puts its regulations):

    Just because you see an ad doesn’t make it legal, that’s the whole point of fair housing legislation. The housing laws are broken all the time and its up to people filing complaints to get advertisers to comply. And as Sammy pointed out–it doesn’t even matter if the advertiser intended to discriminate. If an ad makes reasonable people feel discriminated against, that’s enough to block or fine the advertiser.

    Its been clear from the beginning that your legal background is nothing more than reading the fine print on the bottom of the American Idol voting page (although I doubt you even understand that).

  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @rf: Let me know when HUD starts litigating theorecticals versus actualities. As i said, you are conflating, but at this point you are so stuck on a position it really doesn’t matter that you can’t figure out that your position leads to absurdity.

  • rf

    @D’oh, The Magnificent: You’re right, there aren’t hundreds of cases of judgments against advertisers from HUD and other housing advocates using the fair housing advertising laws. You argue like a 10 year old, no facts, just insults and personal observations. Go crawl back under your rock. And say hi to the FHA when you see them.

  • chango

    @D’oh, The Magnificent:

    By “I have a legal background” I suspect you mean


  • D'oh, The Magnificent

    @rf: You and the sock puppet are amusing me.

    Why don’t you report this ad below to the FHA since according to you all such ads are impermissible since they don’t include all sexual orientations, races, gender, etc:

    There are literally thousands I found in doing a quick google search.

    Of course, that’s the absurdity of your post and article (that by reaching out to gays that means others are excluded), and you will continue to conflate ads (which by their very nature exclude since they can’t possibly include every category in an ad) with whether apartment buildings are allowed to discriminate in actual renting or state they plan to exclude. Is that what this ad is saying? If you think so, you are a retard.

    Please link some more to irrelevant links that does not address the premise of the article- which suggests that reaching out to gays is legally impermissible, by virtue of the fact that they only have a gay couple in the ad. Once again, you can type until your fingers bleed- the argument is legal mumbo jumbo meant to draw traffic.

    That’s not the law. The law is regarding exclusion of groups in the actual renting. Not whether an ad is enticing to a particular group or not. saying so.

  • rf

    d’oh, you still don’t get it. I never said one ad with a couple of people in it would violate the laws if it excludes any or all of the other protected classes. In fact I said the opposite about your example of a white couple with children–you know, where you dismissed me. This article is not about 1 ad. Its about marketing to gays who are a protected class regarding housing in New York.

    The one picture above, assuming its two men, is fine. However, if this building puts only pictures of presumed gay men, especially only white men, across the city, in newspapers, in brochures, etc, they can be investigated for advertising violations by anyone who is offended. There is even an issue if the gays in their ads are in separate ads than the straights–and even if their straight ad includes 4 or more people but the gay ad includes only 2 people–why aren’t the gays integrated? Or if they change the ad on the side of the building regularly but only show one type of person. Even just a few ads without diversity shows a pattern of non inclusion. A lot of advertising violations have gone away as people have become more sensitive to the lawsuits that have occured over the past 40 years and racial discrimination is harder to find. But familial status is still going strong– there’s a case in Ohio right now about the term “bachelor pad” excluding people with children. And I suspect that SO exclusion will become big as we get added to state and federal housing laws and gay and anti-gay groups start speaking up.

    Of course they can market to gays, but they better do it in a way that doesn’t call into question any exclusion of anyone else. Which means their ads must be visually balanced with a host of diverse looking people. Not every ad, but overall it must look like we are one big happy world of diversity in the eyes of this building.

    The remax ad would be fine as well, in fact it proves my point. They only have 3 people in that ad but they took the care to show a pattern of diversity (not that they include everyone but there is a spirit of inclusion). If I were to do an investigation of remax ads (or just for a specific franchise), and saw only whites or only blacks or whites advertised in certain places and blacks in others, absolutely there would be a case. And because they are licensed, I could take it to the real estate commission as well as hud or the state’s civil rights board and maybe get them to stop with a letter over threat of revoking their license.

    Finally answer these questions:

    Why don’t you know that some states include SO in their housing laws?
    Why are you unaware of housing advertising laws?
    Why do you think housing advertisers don’t have to follow housing advertising laws?
    Are you really unaware of lawsuits based on discrimination in housing advertisement?
    Why don’t you know who manages the Fair Housing Act?
    Why do you bring housing ad violations to the FHA?
    Why is your “legal background” important when you post no legal arguments for your claims nor do you seem to have any very basic fair housing knowledge?

  • chango



    And, FTR, from

    TITLE 42 > CHAPTER 45 > SUBCHAPTER I > § 3604

    § 3604. Discrimination in the sale or rental of housing and other prohibited practices

    to whit:

    (c) To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination.
    (d) To represent to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin that any dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when such dwelling is in fact so available.
    (e) For profit, to induce or attempt to induce any person to sell or rent any dwelling by representations regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons of a particular race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.



  • rf

    @chango: Don’t try to confuse me with your legal mumbo jumbo.

  • chango

    er, make that “jumbo…”

    I must be a little hungry this morning.

Comments are closed.