This is the third post in a series of six posts written by the Summer 2021 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.
Author: Megan Farr, senior
This summer, I interned with the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), a New York-based non-profit group working to educate the public on source of income discrimination and research the debts that real estate companies owe New York City from violations of city policies.
As an intern, I was able to participate in this mission through my work on HRI’s project to uncover discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders. Section 8 is a federally-funded program providing housing opportunities to low-income tenants. Tenants can use vouchers on any apartment below a rent limit set by their caseworker. Discrimination against the use of Section 8 vouchers is illegal, but landlords and brokers continue to deny prospective tenants based on their sources of income. In order to meet the need for greater public awareness of tenants’ rights surrounding source of income discrimination, HRI trains testers, including myself, posed as Section 8 tenants and called real estate companies to determine if they are in compliance with laws surrounding Section 8 vouchers. HRI also works to educate these companies about source of income discrimination laws, so they can ensure their practices are in line with local and federal laws. As a tester, I was able to hone my ability to think on my feet when speaking to landlords and brokers, as well as experience the investigative side of the public interest legal work I hope to pursue after graduation.
I also researched the debt owed to the City by real estate companies. This portion of my work involved interpreting legal documents, collecting data, and utilizing public records to conduct research. I found this work invaluable for developing skills I will need later in my legal career, including how to read legal documents and collect data in an efficient manner.
My internship would not have been possible without an Honors Summer Internship Fellowship, and I am grateful to the Honors Program for giving me the opportunity to pursue work for a cause I am passionate about. Not only have I deepened my understanding of housing rights issues and further developed my own skills, I have also had the opportunity to participate in the Honors Program’s mission to be a “community of scholars for justice.” HRI values community engagement in their work for housing justice, and working with HRI this summer has allowed me to engage with the New York community and further the work for justice the Honors Program encourages.