HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones visited Westchester County on June 4 to promote the importance of fair housing as well as discuss a 2009 fair housing settlement between the County and HUD. At the press conference, held in White Plains, Jones was joined by Acting Regional Administrator Mirza Orriols, as well as numerous Westchester-based housing advocacy and fair housing groups.
A nonprofit housing advocacy group, the Anti-Discrimination Center based in New York City, had filed a lawsuit against the County under the False Claims Act in 2006 alleging that the County had not complied with its obligations to affirmatively further fair housing as required of federal grantees receiving Community Development Block Grant funding. Rather than fight the allegations in court and face treble damages if it lost, the County negotiated with HUD and reached a settlement requiring it to build 750 units of affordable housing in areas of the County with small minority populations, to promote, through the County Executive, legislation that bars discrimination in housing on the basis of source of income, and to develop a plan that identifies and addresses any exclusionary zoning practices and policies.
Mr. Jones said that the County was making progress toward complying with the requirements of the settlement, but that it still has obligations to meet or its faces the danger of losing $7.4 million in federal funding by the end of the fiscal year. Jones set a cooperative and positive tone during the press conference; but was also firm. "We want to be a partner with the county, but we need to hold them accountable. When you do part of your deal, you get the money."