Agreement seen as a national model for inclusive, diverse and sustainable communities
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced a historic civil rights settlement with Westchester County, New York. The landmark agreement will result in the construction of 750 units of affordable housing in neighborhoods with small minority populations; will remove existing impediments to fair and affordable housing; and will require the County to take active steps to ensure its housing and development practices are fair to families without regard to their race or ethnicity.
"This is about expanding the geography of opportunity for families who may have been limited in their housing choices. The agreement we announce today demonstrates Westchester County’s commitment to make sure its neighborhoods are open to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "This agreement signals a new commitment by HUD to ensure that housing opportunities be available to all, and not just to some."
Westchester County receives a yearly Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocation from HUD and, as a condition of receiving this block grant funding, agrees to "affirmatively further fair housing." From 2000 to 2008, the County certified that it had complied with this requirement. The Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York (ADC) disputed this certification and filed a complaint under The False Claims Act. A federal court ruled that Westchester County failed its legal obligation to explicitly analyze "the existence and impact of race discrimination on housing opportunities and choice in its jurisdiction."
As a result, HUD and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York helped to broker today’s agreement whereby Westchester County agreed to make a $51.6 million investment in affordable housing over the next seven years in areas of the County where it has historically not provided affordable housing. The settlement also provides for payment of $7.5 million to ADC.
"This landmark agreement significantly advances the cause of promoting residential integration, the cause that led us to initiate this litigation more than three years ago," said Craig Gurian, Executive Director of the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York. "It signals a new day for Westchester County, and I applaud HUD and the Department of Justice for joining with ADC to begin to make real the long-neglected promise that we can become one community, with no exclusion."
"The resolution of this case is a positive step toward creating new housing opportunities and advancing integrated residential patterns in Westchester County," said Ron Sims, HUD Deputy Secretary and former Executive of King County, Washington. "This settlement reflects an approach to equitable development in suburban areas that can serve as a model for building inclusive, diverse and sustainable communities across the country."
Westchester County will also undertake and fund targeted marketing, public education and other outreach efforts to promote fair and affordable housing in areas that have historically not provided such opportunities. Finally, the County’s compliance with the agreement will be overseen by a court-appointed monitor who will have the authority to recommend additional actions. The monitor will be James E. Johnson, a member of the law firm Debevoise and Plimpton. The agreement announced today must still be approved by Westchester County’s Board of Legislators.