Lawyers for Westchester County are in federal court today seeking to block the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from taking away $7.4 million in community funds to help prevent homelessness and improve neighborhoods because it has not complied with a 2009 fair housing settlement. The county wants injunctive relief to prevent HUD from reallocating the money to other communities around the country, according to a news release today from County Executive Rob Astorino’s office.
Yesterday was the deadline for the county to respond to HUD’s demand for an analysis of local zoning it can accept and a plan for legislation to prohibit landlords from discriminating against renters based on the income they use to pay rent, such as Section 8 funds. Short of that, the federal agency said the county would lose the $7.4 million in grants.
County Attorney Robert Meehan spoke with federal officials yesterday about a possible resolution, but he was not successful, The Journal News/lohud.com reports today.
The county Board of Legislators on Monday authorized the lawsuit to go forward.
Lawyers for the county are scheduled to appear before Judge Denise Cote at noon in federal court in Manhattan.
The county maintains it is in full compliance with the 2009 settlement, which calls for 750 units of affordable housing to be built in 31 “eligible” communities, which have populations that are mostly white. County officials say Westchester is ahead of schedule in meeting its goals — 305 units have financing in place and 110 are occupied. The county’s analysis of zoning concludes that Westchester’s zoning is not exclusionary based on race.
“HUD is not allowed to make up its own rules for this money,” Astorino (pictured here) said in a statement. “Westchester is entitled to fairness and due process just like every other community in the country. What makes matters worse is that HUD is hurting the very people it claims it is always trying to help. This money is designated for some of Westchester’s neediest residents including the homeless and those facing foreclosure. This is HUD behaving badly – both legally and morally – and the county, on a bi-partisan basis, is going to court to stop it.”
These are the court papers: