A July 13 letter notified Westchester County, New York that HUD rejected the County’s certification that it is affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH). Therefore, HUD is also disapproving the County’s FY11 Annual Action Plan to the Consolidated Plan, resulting in a halt to the receipt of more than $7 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME, and Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) funds. HUD is taking this action after rejecting Westchester’s revised Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI) because it did not incorporate corrective actions demanded by HUD in a May 13, 2011 letter.
Jurisdictions receiving CDBG, HOME, and ESG funds must certify that they are affirmatively furthering fair housing, which includes having an analysis of impediments to fair housing choice and taking actions to overcome the effects of impediments.
The Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York (ADC) sued the County in 2006 under the False Claims Act, asserting that the County’s certification to HUD that it was affirmatively furthering fair housing was false. On February 24, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in ADC’s favor, finding that Westchester had “utterly failed” to meet its annual AFFH certification. Then, on April 28, 2009 HUD rejected the accuracy of the County’s AFFH certification, leading to the rare disapproval of the County’s 2009 Consolidated Plan (see Memo, 6/5/09, 8/21/09, 2/26/10, and 7/16/10).
A December 21, 2010 HUD letter identified deficiencies in the County’s July 23, 2010 AI (a revision of the 2009 AI previously rejected) and specified ways to remedy the deficiencies (see Memo, 1/7/11). Westchester submitted another revised AI twelve days late on April 13, 2011. HUD soon rejected the County’s certification that it was affirmatively furthering fair housing in a letter dated April 28. A May 13 letter signed by John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Mercedes Márquez, Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, provided specific reasons for HUD’s rejection and offered Westchester yet another opportunity to correct the deficiencies by June 13.
According to the July 13, 2011 letter, the revised AI, including yet more revisions submitted on July 11, does not meet the court settlement’s terms for an acceptable AI. Among the many corrective actions set out in the May 13 letter, the July 11 letter specifically cites the AI’s deficiencies regarding two settlement terms:
- Providing plans to promote and secure passage of source of income protections. Legislation had been approved earlier by the County Board of Legislators, but was vetoed by the previous County Executive.
- Promoting plans to overcome municipalities’ exclusionary zoning practices. HUD called for a legal strategy to identify specific zoning issues the County’s municipalities that the County will challenge, along with a list of steps the County will take if municipalities do not enact changes within three months of receiving notice.
In a statement on Westchester’s website, County Executive Robert Astorino complained that HUD’s demands “constitute unprecedented bureaucratic overreaching” and were “an unwarranted trampling of local zoning rights.” The statement can be found at http://www3.westchestergov.com/news/3020-astorino-qoverreaching-by-hud-threatesn-housing-settlement
HUD’s July 15, 2011 letter is available at http://www3.westchestergov.com/images/stories/pdfs/july13201hudletter.pdf
HUD’s May 13 2011 letter is available at http://www3.westchestergov.com/images/stories/pdfs/may132011hudletter.pdf.
For more on AFFH, see NLIHC’s 2011 Advocates’ Guide, page 16, www.nlihc.org.