Saturday, February 22, 2014
Westchester's Racist Zipcodes (Marin is the next county to be targeted by HUD)
Seven towns and villages in Westchester County have zoning that keeps out low-income families, making it exclusionary under state and federal law, and that may perpetuate segregation, the monitor in the county’s fair housing case said in a report released Wednesday.
Croton-on-Hudson, Harrison, Lewisboro, Mamaroneck town, Ossining town, Pelham Manor and Pound Ridge share problems with their zoning, including little or no land designated for multifamily housing, no incentives or mandates for affordable housing and slow progress in adopting a model fair housing ordinance, said the report by James Johnson.
The other 24 communities with low minority populations that are targeted by the settlement do not have exclusionary zoning and four — Hastings-on-Hudson, North Salem, Tarrytown and Yorktown — should be examples to the other communities of how to create housing opportunities, he said.
Johnson’s report contradicts the county’s conclusion in several analyses submitted as required by the settlement that there is no exclusionary zoning in the 31 communities covered by the agreement.
“The report reflects months of work to determine whether the zoning in municipalities is compliant with two separate but related standards: broadly speaking, the duty to provide for the affordable housing needs of the municipality and the region, on the one hand, and the obligation not to establish zoning regulations that have segregative impact on the other,” Johnson said.
“Our work made clear (that) seven municipalities did not meet the first standard. I believe more data is required before one can conclude on the second,” he said.
Johnson’s report is an effort to break an impasse that has stalled the implementation of the housing settlement and put more than $20 million in federal funding to the county at risk.
He asked the county to report back to him in a month on how it will work with the municipalities to change the problematic zoning. If the county objects, it will have to take its reasons to a U.S. magistrate judge.
Ned McCormack, a spokesman for County Executive Rob Astorino, said Westchester is pleased the monitor found 24 communities to have no exclusionary zoning but disputed the other findings.
“The county rejects the monitor’s finding that seven communities have exclusionary zoning ‘on the basis of socioeconomic status,’ ” he said.
“The county’s comprehensive (analyses) in eight submissions to HUD — running to thousands of pages of documentation — found no evidence of any exclusionary zoning,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has the final say on the analysis, rejected all of the county’s submissions as inadequate. As a result, HUD is holding up more than $17 million in community development grants that help nonprofits and municipalities serve the poor and $3 million in lead-paint abatement grants.
To try to bring HUD and the county together, Johnson last year embarked on his own analysis with the help of consultants from the Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment.
HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones said his agency looks forward to reviewing the report.
While Johnson said 20 communities with non-exclusionary zoning have room for improvement, Craig Gurian, who brought the case against the county in 2006 that led to the settlement with the government, said based on the data in the report, those communities should also fall into the exclusionary category.
“The monitor’s analysis stunningly understates the extent of exclusionary zoning,” Gurian said.
Astorino has accused the government of wanting to dismantle local zoning.