Not over yet, Federal Judge now Requiring Westchester County to Perform a Study
Introduction by Smith Young “:)” Never settle in a lawsuit with HUD, the lesson here is that the federal government is not reasonable, they can’t be, it’s either their way or the highway. How is it fair that HUD’s hit man, the federal monitor, may accept the county’s choice of a consultant or pick his own consultant. It’s clear, HUD’s consultant is waiting in the wing.
Westchester County will appeal this ruling and seek an immediate stay of the order. HUD’s federal monitor commented “The judge quite appropriately noted that the county’s tactics have led to lost time and opportunity.” But that begs the question about lost time for who? Westchester County no longer takes HUD grants, so hiring this consultant combined with the appeal may prove an opportunity for the county to completely separate and get its local authority returned.
The New York Times
Westchester Must Hire Consultant for Fair-Housing Study, Judge Rules
A federal judge on Friday ruled that Westchester County must hire a consultant to study barriers to fair housing in communities across one of the richest suburbs in the country.
The decision came in response to a request by a federal monitor who has overseen the implementation of a 2009 consent decree signed by the county and the federal government. It required the county to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 overwhelmingly white municipalities.
The decree was the result of a legal settlement between the county and the Anti-Discrimination Center, a nonprofit group. In 2006, the group sued the county, saying that the county had lied when, while applying for federal housing money, it claimed to have complied with fair housing mandates. A federal judge ruled that the county had “utterly failed” to meet its obligations.
In addition to the 750 units of housing, which the county is on track to build, the decree stipulated that the county also ensure that its municipalities stop using exclusionary zoning practices. The agreement required the county to submit a so-called “analysis of impediments” to affordable housing, saying Westchester should sue towns and villages, if necessary.
The county has since submitted several of the analyses, arguing each time that none of the county’s municipalities have exclusionary zoning. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has rejected them all as inadequate.
In her ruling from the bench, the judge, Denise L. Cote, called the county’s analyses a “failed process” and gave Westchester officials 30 days to select a consultant for the study. The federal monitor in the case, James E. Johnson, may accept the county’s choice or pick his own consultant. In either case, the consultant will then have four months to prepare an analysis and recommend any zoning changes.
Mr. Johnson has worked with many municipalities in the county on adopting model zoning ordinances, but said that a half-dozen continue to be exclusionary.
“There remains a tremendous amount of work to be done,” Mr. Johnson said after the hearing. “The judge quite appropriately noted that the county’s tactics have led to lost time and opportunity.”
Westchester officials said they will appeal the ruling and seek an immediate stay of the order. But Edwin McCormack, a spokesman for Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive and a Republican, said that the county would still begin the process of choosing a consultant.
Mr. McCormack pointed out that, nationwide, HUD no longer requires communities that receive government money to submit an “analysis of impediments” to fair housing. (In fact, President Obama last year introduced much more stringent rules that require localities to document how they will reduce racial segregation in residential neighborhoods.)
“The county is being asked to meet a standard that no longer exists,” Mr. McCormack said.