Despite optimism from Westchester County officials that a recently-submitted analysis of obstacles to fair housing would satisfy federal officials overseeing the 2009 fair housing settlement and free up federal funds, a letter sent Friday to the county says the analysis is still inadequate.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving the county a June 10 deadline for a new submission.
HUD said it still cannot release community development money from 2011, 2012 and 2013 that supports municipal projects and nonprofits because the county cannot certify that it will adequately promote fair housing. The Analysis of Impediments, which includes a zoning analysis that has been the main sticking point, is required to get the Community Development Block Grants and related money.
The 2011 money is in danger of being lost for good.
“It is HUD’s desire to offer Westchester County a clear and constructive path forward that would allow the County to receive its block grant assistance so it, in turn, can promote community development, produce affordable housing and assist homeless persons and families,” the letter from Vincent Hom, HUD’s director of community planning and development, says.
The letter says the county’s analysis, which was submitted April 24 and concludes there is no exclusionary zoning in Westchester, is deficient because it “is lacking in substance,” is based on problematic methodology and asserts conclusions not supported by the data. The county has also not developed an adequate plan to overcome exclusionary zoning and it hasn’t included a plan detailing how the county executive will promote legislation included in the settlement, HUD says.
County Executive Rob Astorino had fought the requirement that he promote the legislation, which would prohibit discrimination against renters because they use government income such as Section 8 or veteran’s benefits. But he lost in court and was forced to reintroduce the source-of-income legislation and promise to sign it. The letter makes clear that, in HUD’s view, his obligation to promote the legislation continues and officials want a written plan included in the Analysis of Impediments. The Board of Legislators is considering the legislation now and could vote later this month.
To get the community development grants, totaling about $17 million, the county must provide HUD with a series of assurances and then the grants will come with conditions including timetables and benchmarks. In addition to the plan to promote source-of-income legislation, HUD wants the county to acknowledge it has a duty to promote fair housing, to revise its zoning analysis, to develop a strategy to overcome zoning that excludes minorities and others protected under fair housing laws and describe what kind of violations would cause it to sue a municipality.
With this letter, HUD is asking the county to agree to an expansion of the players who can force action on exclusionary zoning. If the county, a court, HUD or the monitor identifies exclusionary zoning in any municipality, the county must agree to withdraw HUD funding and take enforcement action, the letter says.