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Families with kids face housing discrimination

Esther Hernandez, 32, spent two months searching for an apartment in Corona for her family and herself. But when she found the perfect place to live, she was rejected by the landlord for having children.

“She changed her face when she saw the kids,” Hernandez said.

A mother of two young boys, ages five and one, Hernandez was looking for a larger apartment for three adults – her husband, herself and her cousin – and three children – her two sons and her niece.

She thought her luck had finally changed, but when she went to sign the lease of a two-bedroom apartment near 108th Street and 37th Avenue, the landlord saw her children and told Hernandez she needed to speak to her husband, and then they would call her back. She waited two days without hearing from the landlord or the landlord’s husband.

“I called her . . . she kept saying her husband had to speak with me,” said Hernandez. “I knew I wasn’t going to get the apartment.”

That’s when Hernandez spoke with Jaime Weisberg, a member of the faith-based organization Queens Congregation United for Action (QCUA), about her difficulties searching for an apartment. Weisberg said this was not the first time she heard this problem.

“I’ve heard this problem for a while,” Weisberg said. “We looked at it more this year.”

Among the explanations landlords gave Hernandez for not accepting children were that kids make too much noise, they cause damage, a building isn’t safe enough for children, or they may disturb other residents. Hernandez said she has also been told that only two children and only kids of a certain age would be allowed in the apartment.

“We’ve heard everything,” Weisberg said.

The QCUA, along with the Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Corona, have held meetings to discuss housing rights and discrimination prevention with residents.

“We’re trying to educate people about their laws,” Weisberg said. “[We] help them look for apartments, meet with other people.”

By law it is illegal to deny housing to anyone based on his or her race, color, gender, sexual orientation, lineage or citizenship status or because children may be living with the person. The City Commission on Human Rights is independently investigating cases of housing discrimination, and residents who are experiencing discrimination can file complaints with the commission.

Even so, many in the community are not aware of these laws.

“I thought it was normal,” Hernandez said. “If I have a problem, I just stay.”

Hernandez finally found an apartment in Corona after she hired a real estate agent.

“Thank God we found a place,” Hernandez said.

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