On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote ruled that Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino violated the terms of the county’s fair housing settlement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development when he vetoed legislation prohibiting discrimination based on the source of a renter’s income, like Section 8 or disability payments. A spokesman for Astorino said the county will appeal. HUD issued a statement on the ruling Monday:
May 7, 2012
HUD STATEMENT ON WESTCHESTER COUNTY
Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote sustained the federal government’s objection to a recent ruling by a Federal Magistrate Judge related to Westchester County, New York’s compliance with a landmark fair housing agreement reached in 2009.
Judge Cote agreed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York that Westchester County is in breach of its obligation to promote local legislation banning housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income. In reaching her decision, Judge Cote noted, “Under no reasonable understanding of the term can the County Executive be said to have discharged the obligation to promote source-of-income legislation when he vetoed the legislation. The veto was an unambiguous breach of the duty to promote…The County Executive’s action constituted the very opposite of what was required under the Settlement, and placed the County in breach.”
With this ruling, along with findings from the court-appointed monitor, it is clear the County is failing to comply with two essential elements of the 2009 Consent Decree: To promote source-of-income legislation and to fully identify and address exclusionary zoning practices within the County.
The Court adopted the Monitor’s description of the minimum steps the County, through the County Executive, must take to fulfill its obligation: request that the County’s Board of Legislators reintroduce the prior legislation, provide information to assist in analyzing the impact of the legislation, and sign the legislation into law. HUD continues to stand ready to assist the County in carrying out this obligation and the other commitments the County has made.