On July 20, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a motion seeking to compel Westchester County, New York to comply with an August 10, 2009 court settlement (see Memo, 5/4). The District Attorney concludes, “The Court should exercise its authority here because the County’s consistent refusal to respond to [the Court-appointed] Monitor’s requests in a timely and complete manner frustrates the purpose of the Settlement – to affirmatively further fair housing (‘AFFH’) including eliminating impediments to integration, engaging in substantial public education efforts, and developing at least 750 affordable housing units.”
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. HUD has withheld CDBG and HOME funds from Westchester since FY10.
Some of the elements of the 2009 settlement obligated the county to:
- Identify impediments to fair housing within its jurisdictions, including impediments based on race or municipal resistance to the development of affordable housing.
- Analyze local zoning ordinances.
- Implement strategies for changes to local zoning ordinances in order to affirmatively further fair housing.
The county finally provided a zoning analysis on February 29, 2012, which the District Attorney characterized as “wholly inadequate” because “The Zoning Submission failed to identify any strategy for overcoming exclusionary zoning practices, and lacked facts and analysis that would adequately support its conclusion that exclusionary zoning did not exist anywhere in Westchester County.” The motion notes that the monitor specifically asked the county to analyze the exclusionary impact of six zoning practices based on socio-economic status and race.
The monitor called on the county to submit a zoning analysis meeting the specifications of the settlement. After granting the county a deadline extension to comply, the zoning analysis ultimately resubmitted was again, “utterly deficient.” According to the motion, the county failed to respond to six specific features, including by failing to provide:
- The racial and ethnic composition of each zoning district.
- A substantive assessment of the effect of the six zoning practices on the cost and placement of affordable housing.
- A strategy for overcoming exclusionary zoning.
The motion also discusses the settlement requirement that the county create and fund a public education campaign to broaden support for fair housing. The county repeated its pattern of requesting last-minute extensions of the deadline to comply, followed by deficient submissions.
The District Attorney asserts that, “Without a Court order, the County will continue to engage in a course of conduct that will make it all but impossible to achieve the results contemplated by the Settlement.”
Click here to view the District Attorney’s July 20, 2012 motion.
Click here to view the Court-appointed Monitor’s July 20, 2012 report.
Click here for more information about the Westchester case available from the Anti-Discrimination Center.
For more about affirmatively furthering fair housing and AIs, see page 184 of the 2012 Advocates’ Guide at http://nlihc.org/library/other/guides/2012.