U.S. Attorney, representing HUD, concocts bizarrely limiting interpretation of key consent decree provision

Westchester Case

May 6, 2014 — On May 2nd, in response to ADC’s Cheating on Every Level report, the presiding judge in the Westchester case held what was billed as a status conference.

Most critically, the U.S. Attorney took the position that paragraph 7(j) of the decree does not mean what it says.  That paragraph requires Westchester to do two things: (1) take all appropriate action, including litigation, to overcome hindrances to building housing units that affirmatively further fair housing under the decree (like exclusionary or otherwise restricitive zoning) that municipalities have not themselves eliminated; and (2) initiate such legal action as appropriate to accomplish the purpose of the decree to affirmatively further fair housing.

Instead, the U.S. Attorney argued that Westchester could immunize itself against a finding that it has failed to meet this obligation so long as it continues to pretend that barriers to fair housing choice do not exist. It is an extraordinary position — one that rewards recalciatrance and resistance. See ADC’s follow-up letter to the Assistant United States Attorney on this issue by following the link at the bottom of this page.

In the face of unrelenting defiance of the decree by the county executive, in the face of Westchester’s across the board refusal to take action against municipalities that retain barriers to fair housing choice, and in the face of multiple other, uncured violations of the decree, the U.S. Attorney only acknowledged some “bumps in the road” and insisted that it had a “successful strategy” that it would continue to pursue.

Other elements of the conference:

Not asked by the judge, and not explained by either the U.S. Attorney or the Monitor, was why Westchester’s failure to produce an analysis of impediments to fair housing choice in violation of paragraph 32 of the consent decree should not be punished by the court.

Also not asked and not explained was why Westchester’s failure to operate all of its housing programs and policies with the goal of ending residential segregation in the county, a violation of paragraph 31(a) of the decree, should not be sanctioned by the court.

Also not asked and not explained was why the Monitor had failed to produce an implementation plan that affirmatively furthers fair housing in the face of Westchester’s failure to do so, something he was mandated to do four years ago.

Also not asked and not explained was why Westchester has been allowed to “count” so many units of housing (more than three quarters of its claimed total) that are not compliant with the requirements of the decree.

At the end of the conference, the judge said: “I don’t want to characterize the county’s record of compliance or lack of compliance. I think it’s better dealt with in an issue by issue way.”

No action was taken.