Latest Developments in Westchester County AFFH Court Settlement
In 2009, Westchester County in New York State entered into a landmark desegregation agreement with the federal government. In April 2013, the United States Justice Department sent Westchester officials a letter saying that the county had failed to enact legislation prohibiting housing discrimination based on source of income as ordered by the settlement and by a federal court ruling. Additionally, HUD said it will revoke $7.4 million in money allocated to Westchester and send it elsewhere if the county doesn’t take steps to comply with at least two elements of the settlement by a certain date.
One of the two elements that the county is faulted for not following is failing to enact legislation banning discrimination in housing based on the applicant’s source of income—such as Section 8 housing vouchers or Social Security payments. The legislature had passed the measure, but Westchester County District Attorney Rob Astorino vetoed it in 2010. Regarding the second element, HUD and subsequent court rulings have said the county has failed to conduct an adequate review of impediments to fair housing in its zoning and housing ordinances.
Because subsequent Analysis of Impediments (AI) submissions were found lacking, Westchester hasn’t received CDBG, HOME, or ESG funds since its Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10) block grants. FY09 and FY10 funds were provided based on assurances in the court settlement. And Westchester County stopped applying for funds in 2015.
Although Westchester County hasn’t been receiving HUD funds since its FY10 block grants, the county is still required to submit an acceptable AI as a remedial measure under the 2009 settlement. HUD has found the AI Supplement concerning zoning unacceptable for the 10th time because it failed to:
- Analyze areas of white segregation by focusing on concentrations of minority residents in some communities;
- Fully acknowledge segregation of African-American and Hispanic residents, erroneously claiming that there were no concentrations of minority populations in some communities;
- Compare similarly situated communities; and
- Offer forward-looking actions the county could take to overcome the effects of identified impediments. Instead the county discussed education and outreach activities such as distributing fair housing posters, attending award ceremonies, and participating on panel discussions.
Westchester County appealed a decision of the district court concluding that the county continued to fail in its obligation to provide an acceptable AI. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the district court’s decision. As a result of the court ruling that the county has consistently evaded its obligation under the 2009 settlement, the court has appointed former U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson as a new monitor assigned to oversee the settlement.