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$4.7M In Federal Funds Threatened In Westchester Housing Dispute

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has disputed arguments that the county is not complying with federal the housing settlement.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has disputed arguments that the county is not complying with federal the housing settlement. Photo Credit: File Photo

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – About $7.4 million in federal housing and development funds will be reallocated away from Westchester County unless officials comply with terms set in a Housing Settlement , the Department of Housing and Urban Development said.

“To date, the county has not provided satisfactory certification that it will comply with its obligation to affirmatively further fair housing as part of its FY 2011 Annual Action Plan,” Vincent Hon wrote in a letter to County Executive Rob Astorino on Monday.

Under the settlement, Westchester County is required to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 mostly white communities. County officials said Monday they were in full compliance with the settlement — and ahead of schedule.

“HUD's most recent letter of March 25 is just one more example of the federal government trying to bully Westchester to do things that go far beyond the terms of the settlement and dismantle local zoning,” County spokesman Ned McCormack said in a statement.

“HUD's latest action of unilaterally demanding that the county give up either its constitutionally protected rights or $7 million that it was promised two years ago – money that goes not only to build affordable housing but to communities not involved in the settlement and most in need – shows that HUD has no regard or respect for fairness, due process and the judges of the U.S. Second Circuit who are charged with resolving this dispute.”

The county has until April 25 to submit “substantive assurance” that it will comply with the agreement, HUD officials say. The federal funds include more than $5.3 million in community development block grants, more than $1.6 million in HOME funds and more than $400,000 in emergency shelter grants.

County officials and the federal monitor have gone to court once again over the county’s compliance with the settlement. County officials say a comprehensive legal analysis shows local zoning practices are not exclusionary and, because of that, they're refusing to provide strategies to combat it.

The county is failing to meet deadlines for requested documents and refusing to promote source-of-income legislation or plans to overcome exclusionary zoning practices, says James Johnson, federal monitor in charge of overseeing the settlement.

“To date, the county has failed to respond in writing to HUD's request for assurances,” Hon wrote. “Instead, the county has repeatedly refused to take these remaining steps necessary to meet its obligations agreed to in the 2009 fair housing settlement.”

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