Statement regarding federal grant "workaround" being provided to Westchester's former consortium jurisdictions
February 10, 2015 — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Representative Nita Lowey have announced a plan whereby towns and villages that used to be part of the Westchester County Consortium can apply to New York State for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and other federal funds.
Leaving aside the question of whether it is legally permissible to create a special source of funding for towns and villages with populations under 50,000 (that is, jurisdictions that normally have to apply as part of a consortium), ADC notes that it would be illegal for New York to provide funding to towns and villages that either fail to affirmatively further fair housing or who hinder New York’s own efforts to affirmatively further fair housing.
“Towns and villages with zoning practices that perpetuate residential segregation — and most Westchester municipalities fit that description — are not ‘innocent actors’ and should not be permitted to reap the benefits of federal funding,” said Craig Gurian, ADC’s executive director. “HUD needs to engage in vigilant oversight to make sure that statutory and regulatory requirements are not ignored because it is politically convenient to do so,” he added.
In connection with the announcement of the program, Representative Lowey was quoted as saying, “Like so many in our community, I’ve been fed up with the seemingly never-ending fight between the county and HUD.”
It is disappointing, but not surprising, that neither she nor Governor Cuomo indicated that they were fed up with Westchester’s failure to abide by a binding federal civil rights court order. Westchester has been violating that court order for more than five years, most notably by failing to act against the many towns and villages in the county who continue to maintain excessively rigid zoning, zoning that creates barriers to fair housing choice.
Throughout this period, neither the U.S. Attorney nor the Monitor have applied to the court to hold Westchester in contempt for its continuing violation of its core consent decree obligation, and Representative Lowey and Governor Cuomo continue to be unwilling to demand that Westchester be made to meet its desegregation obligations under the court order.
“For years, HUD and the U.S. Attorney used the fact that it was withholding funds from Westchester as an excuse not to enforce the consent decree in court directly,” ADC’s Gurian said. “Now that the Governor and Representative Lowey have taken the funding lever, perhaps more people will see that the way to enforce the consent decree is to enforce the consent decree.”
Key provisions of the consent decree being violated include:
- The dual provisions requiring Westchester to take all necessary action, including legal action, against municipalities that continue to maintain zoning and other barriers to development under the consent decree and to fair housing choice more generally (paragraph 7j).
- The requirement of an Implementation Plan (controlling all development) that affirmatively furthers fair housing (paragraphs 18, 20, 22f).
- The requirement that all County housing policies and programs have as a goal the ending of residential segregation in Westchester (paragraph 31a).
- The requirement of a HUD-compliant analysis of impediments to fair housing choice (paragraph 32).
Read Cheating On Every Level.