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HUD Deputy Secretary Wants Westchester Fair Housing Settlement Completed

It is the fourth anniversary of a fair and affordable housing settlement agreement between the federal government and Westchester County. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones spoke with WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne about an agreement he wants to push across the finish line.

There was a third and final piece to the agreement that HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones wanted to be completed successfully last week, before reallocating $7.4 million in community development funds. In fact, a judge last week dismissed a county challenge to the government's plan to withhold the $7.4 million in 2011 funds.

It’s a piece that, undone, prompted an August 16 letter from HUD’s deputy assistant secretary alleging the county has refused to offer anything responsive to HUD’s request. It also prompted the loss of the $7.4 million. Again, here’s Jones.

A county spokesman said he hoped HUD would allow the state to administer the community development funds. Yet the August 16 letter says, under applicable law, the funds cannot be reallocated through the state for distribution to the local government entities. The letter says that for the funds to go to Westchester, the county must comply with its legal obligation to meet fair housing requirements. Yet there is the chance to ensure that 2012 and 2013 community development funds are not endangered provided an analysis of impediments meets with HUD’s satisfaction. So far, says Jones:

He says HUD has tried to be a partner with the county.

And he explains an analysis of impediments.

Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who inherited the 2009 fair housing agreement reached with HUD under former County Executive Andrew Spano, a Democrat, has repeatedly accused HUD of exceeding the terms of the agreement and dismantling local zoning. Astorino bristled at promoting Source of Income legislation because he said it turned the Section 8 voluntary program concerning vouchers to supplement the rent of low-income residents into a mandatory program. Astorino, in June, said the settlement exceeded the target of developing 750 affordable housing units by 2016. He said a HUD monitor’s report card showed more than 5,000 units. Jones has a different take.

According to HUD, any deal going forward is without $7.4 million in 2011 community development funds. A HUD spokesman adds, in a statement, that in choosing to disregard its civil rights and federal grantee obligations, the county is depriving its citizens of funding for infrastructure improvements, programs for youth and senior citizens.

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