Interfaith clergy leaders speak out on Westchester's non-compliance with its obligations under the federal housing desegregation court order

Westchester Case

May 20, 2016 — Several members of Interfaith Clergy for Social Action of Westchester have recently issued statements regarding the impact of Westchester’s failure to comply with its consent decree obligations. Excerpts from two of those letters follow.

Bart Worden, Clergy Leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester, after pointing to the deep residential segregation that continues to characterize the county, wrote in part:

Resistance to multiunit dwellings reduces the number of available properties and hits especially hard on the affordable housing stock as ever more of the too few multiunit properties that are built are condominiums, townhouses, or high end rental units that are well out of reach for most people.

Our municipalities are not pulling their own weight when it comes to supporting families in general, and are especially bad about supporting people of color and families who are currently living in distressed areas of the County. But none of these municipalities are likely to step up their welcome to people of color without firm and definitive action by forces from outside of its municipal government. The very fact that there has been so little change in the past fifteen years tells us that people will permit the status quo to prevail unless faced with concerted opposition and strong consequences.

The Consent Decree between HUD and Westchester County must not only be enforced. It must be enforced completely and enforced with passion and with determination. Sadly, it is only when our feet are in the fire that we notice the source of the flames at all, and only when we are emphatically in need of help will we take steps to address the problem. Perhaps the Consent Decree is the fire that can bring down the wall of separation that has been a barrier for people of color who would enjoy living in Westchester County’s mostly White municipalities. We can only know for sure when it’s full power has been unleashed.

The Rev. Noelle Damico, Member of the United Church of Christ Metro Association, wrote in part:

The opening paragraphs of the consent decree declare, “the development of affordable housing in a way that affirmatively furthers fair housing is a matter of significant public interest…broad and equitable distribution of affordable housing promotes sustainable and integrated residential patterns, increases fair and equal access to economic, educational and other opportunities, and advances the health and welfare of the residents.” It is critical to understand the significance of the wording “affordable units that affirmatively further fair housing” as defined in the decree. “Affordable units that affirmatively further fair housing,” were designed to be catalytic in impact…

The federal judge overseeing the consent decree is going to be holding a court conference on the issues recently raised by ADC regarding County non-compliance and U.S. Attorney and Monitor non-enforcement.