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U.S. Attorney Makes Demands Of Westchester In Fair Housing Settlement

Office of the Westchester County Executive

The U.S. Attorney has fired off a letter threatening action if the Westchester County Executive does not comply with his demands. The letter has to do with an affordable housing agreement, and the county executive has said he is in compliance.

The letter from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara demands that Republican County Executive Rob Astorino submit so-called Source of Income legislation to the County Board of Legislators by Thursday, April 25, and that he sign whatever legislation is handed back to him. If this does not occur, Bharara says the county could be fined, and Astorino potentially held in contempt. The demand comes as part of a 2009 fair and affordable housing settlement reached under then-Democratic County Executive Andrew Spano with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That’s Michael Smith, a Republican legislator who represents all or part of the towns of Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant and North Castle and the Villages of Briarcliff Manor and Pleasantville. 

And Bharara’s letter says the county executive has not met his obligation to promote under the settlement agreement.

Peter Harckham is the Democratic Majority Leader on the Board of Legislators. His district includes Somers, Bedford, Mount Kisco, North Salem, Lewisboro, and Pound Ridge.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month upheld a lower court ruling that Astorino was in violation of failing to promote Source of Income legislation. Astorino has previously said his objection to the legislation is turning the Section 8 voluntary program concerning vouchers to supplement the rent of low-income residents into a mandatory program.

A spokesman for Astorino says it is the county’s position that it is in compliance with the settlement. Wednesday afternoon, the county executive, per the U.S. Attorney’s demand, sent a letter to the Board of Legislators, along with a local law on Source of Income, saying he will sign the proposed legislation if it is adopted by the Board of Legislators. Legislators have confirmed receipt. The proposal reflects the same language in legislation adopted by the Board in 2010. Astorino also sent a resolution for a public hearing, and recommended that the Board adopt the local law.

Meanwhile, the county is well ahead of schedule in building the required number of affordable housing units per the settlement. On this the county executive, as well as Republican and Democratic legislators, agree.

A link to documents pertaining to HUD and the settlement can be found on the county government's home page: www.westchestergov.com

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