The Monitor, HUD, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District continue to treat Westchester’s violations of the Consent Decree (that is, a lawful and binding federal court order) as though the Consent Decree were nothing more than an exhortatory document. Despite years of brazen and continuing violations of the Decree, neither the Monitor nor the Government has yet moved to hold the County in contempt. Everything else is window-dressing intended to disguise the fact that the “process” is entirely off the tracks.
Both the Monitor and HUD gave away the game in interviews given to ProPublica last year. The Monitor explained that he didn’t want to hold Westchester to development sites that properly affirmatively furthered fair housing because such an approach would have been what he called risky. “I can’t predict what the County’s behavior would be in that circumstance,” the article quoted him as saying. Similarly, a former HUD official was quoted as saying that, in the agency’s view, “the key was not to make mistakes,” citing a concern that if “HUD loses this case, we’re back to a loss of confidence and people would say we’re worthless.” Both the Monitor and the Government “feared the [Consent Decree] could fall apart if they pushed too hard.”
It may be news to some, but ADC won the case, and the fruit of that victory was a Consent Decree that had as its key focus the dismantling of municipal barriers to affordable housing with maximum desegregation potential. Having a court order meant (and means) that the Monitor and the Government have the maximum possible leverage to enforce the agreed-upon terms. Yet both are unwilling to actually take the direct steps necessary to enforce compliance in court. Instead of action, we see only diversionary plans and discussion.