The monitor overseeing the settlement in Westchester County’s fair housing case this week rejected the county’s analysis of whether zoning in its municipalities effectively keeps poor and minority residents from moving in.
James Johnson of Debevoise & Plimpton in New York said the county’s analysis, submitted Feb. 29, is inadequate and the county needs to delve deeper to assess whether the zoning districts on the books are exclusionary. He is giving the county until July 2 to provide the analysis and to lay out a clear strategy to overcome exclusionary zoning. Separately, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has already declared the analysis inadequate and provided a long set of directions to the county on how to correct it.
County Executive Rob Astorino has resisted providing a strategy that includes the possibility of suing municipalities, saying there’s no justification for the demand. Astorino has focused on the county’s progress toward building the 750 affordable housing units in mostly white towns that is a centerpiece of the settlement.
For the first time, the monitor is also invoking his right under the settlement to interview county staff who helped prepare the zoning submission. In a letter dated May 14 that outlined his deadlines, Johnson also requested a long list of documents related to the zoning analysis, including all preliminary drafts, all communication between county officials and employees and others about the zoning submission. He has also asked for a tabulation for each municipality of the number of applications for permits to develop affordable housing from Jan. 1, 2007 to May 9, 2012 and copies of all rejected applications for permits to develop affordable housing for the same period. The documents are due July 9.
Zoning is only one of the topics in dispute between HUD and the monitor on one side and the county on the other. Astorino has also been taken to task for vetoing legislation that would prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants who use Section 8 or other government income to pay rent. Click here for a story on the latest in that dispute.