County attorney asks to argue before judge in Westchester fair housing case appeal

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Westchester County Attorney Robert Meehan has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to allow oral argument in the court fight over a part of the county’s fair housing settlement. The county and federal government are tangling over legislation that would prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants who use Section 8 vouchers or other government income to pay rent.

The settlement requires the county executive to “promote” the source-of-income legislation and County Executive Rob Astorino has fought the government’s interpretation that promote meant he had to sign it when it was passed by the Board of Legislators. Astorino vetoed source-of-income legislation in 2010.

The dispute has been appealed from the monitor overseeing the settlement, to a magistrate judge, a district judge and now the Court of Appeals. The District Court ordered Astorino to ask the county board to resubmit the legislation from 2010 and the Court of Appeals denied a stay. To avoid a contempt request from the U.S. attorney, Astorino eventually asked the board to take up the legislation.

The board has taken no action and Chairman Ken Jenkins has said they need draft legislation that Astorino can support before moving forward.

The source-of-income dispute is one small element of the settlement, which requires the county to build 750 units of affordable housing in largely white communities.

The court may schedule oral arguments or may decide the case based on the written briefs.

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