On May 3, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote held that the Westchester County, New York, violated a 2010 consent decree designed to address racial and ethnic segregation in the County. The ruling concerned legislation in the County that would have prohibited landlords from considering a tenant’s “source of income” in making rental decisions. Under the terms of the 2010 settlement agreement, the County agreed to “promote” such legislation, which would make it unlawful for landlords to deny housing because a tenant uses a “Section 8” voucher, Social Security, disability payments, or some other government subsidy to help in paying the rent.
In her ruling, Judge Cote held that County Executive Rob Astroino’s action in vetoing such legsilation “constituted the very opposite of what was required under the Settlement.” The court’s ruling noted:
It is also undisputed that the sole action the County Executive has taken since December 2009 in relation to the legislation he is obligated to promote is to veto it. It is unnecessary to decide the precise contours of the duty to promote that the Settlement imposed on the County. Under no reasonable understanding of the term can the County Executive be said to have discharged the obligation to promote source-of income legislation when he vetoed the legislation. The veto was an unambiguous breach of the duty to promote.
As a result of this and other violations of the consent decree, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has withheld over $12.6 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from Westchester County.
In an editorial about the latest developments, the New York Times noted:
Ultimately, this case is not just about hiding 750 units among the Tudors and glades of a county of nearly a million people. It is about doing something to end deeply embedded segregation patterns — “affirmatively furthering fair housing,” as federal law and the settlement explicitly require.
That means that instead of trying to game the settlement, Mr. Astorino should be enforcing the law. He should be taking communities to court to stop them from blocking integration through restrictive zoning. He should be promoting laws to fight rental discrimination, as the county promised, and has failed to do.
For more on the New York Times‘ coverage of the case, click here.