WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- County Executive Robert Astorino touted Westchester's housing settlement progress Monday, saying the 2009 agreement was 72 percent fulfilled despite a stalemate with the federal government that cost Westchester $7 million and six county employees.
Westchester submitted its latest quarterly report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Monday, which shows that 540 of the 750 affordable housing units Westchester agreed to build in predominately white communities are in the development pipeline.
“The county has made extraordinary progress and it is the result of our approach to work closely and cooperatively with municipalities, developers and non-profits around common goals,” Astorino said in a statement. “The numbers tell the story.”
After the Anti-Discrimination Center accused Westchester of falsely claiming to have analyzed minority housing patterns while accepting federal development grants, the federal government picked up the court case and hammered out a settlement with the county in August 2009. The agreement required Westchester to spend $51.6 million, building 750 units of affordable housing in 31 predominately white communities by 2016. The homes must be marketed to minorities outside of the county.
Astorino’s Republican administration noted that Westchester had 206 housing units approved, 182 with financing secured and 108 with building permits in place at the end of 2011. The settlement only required Westchester to have 100 units financed and 50 homes with building permits.
Still, Westchester remains at an impasse with HUD, which was prompted after the federal government rejected a required report, called an analysis of impediments, for the fifth time this July. A court-appointed monitor was asked to resolve the dispute. He sided with HUD in November, arguing that the county must promote legislation banning landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on where their income comes from and more clearly outline a process to combat exclusionary zoning practices.
While the two parties wait for a federal judge’s decision, Westchester was forced to lay off six county employees and abolish 10 positions after losing $7 million in federal funding.
“If not resolved, the loss of HUD funds will restrict the ability of the county to leverage those federal dollars to complete the building obligations set forth in the settlement agreement with the agreed upon $51.6 million,” the county’s quarterly report states.
A HUD press representative declined to comment on the county's assessment.
However, Craig Gurian, the executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center, described the fourth quarter report as another act in Westchester’s “charade.”
“Saying that things are in the pipeline has nothing to do with whether they’re going to come through the other side of the pipeline. Anybody who knows anything about development knows that there are a lot of hurdles. Anybody who knows anything about Westchester knows that there are extra hurdles put in place,” Gurian said.
Gurian added that several of the developments praised by Astorino, including a Rye project that is accessed by a Port Chester street, allow predominately white municipalities like Rye not to challenge their zoning or initiate structural changes as specified in the settlement.
“The consent agree is very, very clear that there are not simply unit specific obligations. There are broader obligations and obligations to litigate arise when municipalities don’t take steps to further the affirmatively furthering goals of the decree,” Gurian said. “Westchester’s goal has and continues to be the production of anti-affirmatively furthering housing units and we think it’s a very good question why neither the government nor the monitor has put a stop to it.”