After losing millions in 2011 community development grants in late September, Westchester County is continuing its legal fight over the larger issue of the federal government’s power to withdraw HUD grants over the county’s compliance with the 2009 fair housing settlement and federal fair housing law, The Journal News/lohud.com reports.
The county is appealing a U.S. District Court decision dismissing its challenge even though it was denied an emergency order in September to prevent the Department of Housing and Urban Development from reallocating $7.4 million in grants. The U.S. attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing it’s moot because the money is gone.
“The papers that we’re filing are there to protect our rights over any overreach by HUD,” said Ned McCormack, a spokesman for County Executive Rob Astorino.
Westchester County is looking ahead to about $10 million in grants for 2012 and 2013 that still could be sent to other communities in the New York metro area. The grants have been frozen each year as the county fought with HUD first over legislation to prevent discrimination against renters using Section 8 vouchers or other government assistance as a source to pay rent and later over an analysis of obstacles to integration in municipal zoning.
The loss of the grants hurts low-income communities and nonprofits that use the money for things like after-school programs and rebuilding sidewalks.
Astorino eventually signed the source-of-income legislation after being threatened with contempt of court but the county still has not provided HUD with a zoning analysis it will accept. Officials contend HUD is trying to impose its conclusions on the county while HUD has said the analysis, which concludes there is no exclusionary zoning in Westchester, is simply inadequate. The court monitor overseeing the case has found exclusionary zoning in several towns.
In dismissing the case, District Judge Denise Cote said HUD had the discretion to accept or reject Westchester’s certification that it was promoting fair housing. The county is arguing that decision will let HUD arbitrarily deny grants without any judicial review.