The court monitor in the Westchester fair housing case is expected on Monday to release his latest report, an analysis of whether local zoning in 31 largely white towns and villages violates federal fair housing law by excluding black and Hispanic residents.
But that leaves only a week for the Westchester Board of Legislators to see if it can rescue 2012 community development grants before the federal government reallocates them to other jurisdictions. The grants fund nonprofits, affordable housing development and other programs for low income populations.
The results of the analysis, especially the number of towns deemed exclusionary, will determine the political difficulty of moving forward.
“We’re hopeful for none, fearful for all and more than likely it will be something in between,” said Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, the chairman of the board.
The board will hold a series of meetings next week, after the report is released, to see if the members can agree on legislation, Kaplowitz said. The board will likely need at least 12 votes to pass anything because County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, does not support the effort.
The board is trying to break an impasse between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Astorino administration over the county’s zoning analysis, which HUD has said is unacceptable. The monitor, Jim Johnson of Debevoise & Plimpton, agreed to conduct a zoning analysis for the board and the board is considering legislation to give HUD a series of assurances that any problematic zoning will be addressed.
Administration officials argue HUD doesn’t like the county’s conclusions and has therefore refused to accept their extensive analysis.
More than $7 million in grants from 2011 have already been reallocated and HUD has withheld more than $5 million in grants each year since, saying that the county doesn’t qualify because it does not have the proper analysis and plans to address fair housing in place. Astorino has declined to apply for the next round of funding.
Holly Leicht, HUD’s regional administrator for Region II, said Sept. 15 is the real drop-dead date when reallocation cannot be reversed. The agency has already issued a notice of potential reallocation, she said.
“Beyond that there’s much more at stake, the whole settlement,” he said.
Photo: Attorney James E. Johnson, the court-appointed monitor in the Westchester’s fair-housing/False Claims Act case, speaks with the editorial board at The Journal News August 4, 2010. ( Rory Glaeseman / The Journal News )