Westchester County and HUD continue their 3 year fight over the terms of a 2009 Fair Housing settlement. As we wrote last year, the settlement mandates that Westchester County build 750 new units of affordable housing, analyze exclusionary zoning as well as other obstacles to fair housing, and work on how to rid themselves of those obstacles. In addition, the county was required to promote a law that would make it illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants who use government vouchers (this law exists in NYC).
I wish I could offer some good news, like Westchester has turned around, decided to go above and beyond HUD’s requirements, and that Westchester is now a booming, economically and racially diverse place to live. But, alas, the fight continues.
HUD had previously promised the county $7.4 million in grants for housing, parks, playgrounds, and other government services. But, as a result of the lawsuit and failure to comply, this money is frozen and may be lost altogether if Westchester continues to sidestep HUD’s criteria. On Monday, the government of Westchester County indicated that they plan to ask the State to administer the money, rather than the county.
Who is behind all this controversy? His name is Rob Astorino and he is the County Executive (pictured above). Mr. Astorino believes he is in full compliance with the settlement, and is requesting a hearing with HUD before the county officially loses control of the money.
While we understand that politics can certainly play into this lawsuit, we believe that throwing such a fight against Fair Housing as well as racial and economic integration can only be a bad thing.
How Mr. Astorino and Westchester County have not complied with the settlement (according to HUD):
- The law the government was supposed to promote – landlords can’t discriminate against tenants with subsidies- passed! But then Mr. Astorino vetoed it! How could he simultaneously promote the law while vetoing it? He can’t. The county, according to HUD, still needs to deal with housing discrimination before it can access the money.
- The county has still not submitted an adequate report that explains obstacles to Fair Housing in the county, particularly a racial analysis.
- The already developed 300 new units of affordable housing are tucked “into the county’s nooks and crannies” (according to an opinion piece in the NYTimes). This placement of new affordable housing is, of course, problematic, particularly when trying to dispute that the planning is not exclusionary zoning.
To be fair, one unfortunate circumstance of the monetary freeze is that towns who have no involvement in the court order and (supposedly) have made long-term efforts to promote affordable housing are negatively impacted. These towns, like Mamaroneck, “are faced with losing money for a wrong that for many years we have been proactively seeking to address.”
Stay tuned for more deets on this highly contentious debate!