New York’s Westchester County will make a $51.6 million investment in affordable housing, under an agreement announced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Justice Department.
The deal, which settles a three-year lawsuit, is expected to result in the construction of 750 units of affordable housing in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods in the county.
The agreement could have a sweeping effect on other communities nationwide.
“It’s very good news for developers, for-profit and not-for-profit, who have been interested in developing in communities that have been closed,” said Craig Gurian, executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York (ADC).
Westchester County receives an annual Community Development Block Grant allocation from HUD, and as a condition of receiving this fund, it agrees to “affirmatively further fair housing.” From 2000 to 2008, the county certified that it had complied with this requirement.
ADC disputed the certification. A federal court then ruled that the county failed its legal obligation to explicitly analyze “the existence and impact of race discrimination on housing opportunities and choice in its jurisdiction.”
As a result, HUD and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York helped to broker a deal that calls for Westchester County to invest more than $50 million in affordable housing over the next seven years in areas where it has historically not provided affordable housing. The settlement also provides for payment of $7.5 million to ADC.
Nationally, the case tells every recipient of community development funds that when they take those funds their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing is real, said Gurian.
"This is about expanding the geography of opportunity for families who may have been limited in their housing choices. The agreement we announce today demonstrates Westchester County's commitment to make sure its neighborhoods are open to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan on Monday. "This agreement signals a new commitment by HUD to ensure that housing opportunities be available to all, and not just to some."