WHITE PLAINS—The Housing Monitor overseeing the $56.1-millionfederal fair housing case settlement with WestchesterCounty issued a report on Sept. 8 that charged sixmunicipalities in the county with engaging in exclusionaryzoning.

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Those zoning practice foster clustering of two-family andmultifamily housing into disproportionally high minority householdareas and/or restrict two-family and multifamily development thatare popular with minorities.

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Housing Monitor James Johnson, a partner withlaw firm Debevoise & Plimpton, LP of New YorkCity, found Harrison, Larchmont,Lewisboro, North Castle,Pelham Manor and Rye Brook tohave some or several forms of exclusionary zoning under an analysisof the Huntington standard that considers whether zoning codes havea discriminatory impact on racial and ethnic minorities.

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Johnson in his 120-page report termed the findings aspreliminary, but stated that he would be meeting with the sixmunicipalities regarding the violations.

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While noting that the Huntington study, performed byJohn Shaprio and Brian Kintish ofthe Pratt Graduate Center for Planning and theEnvironment, found 25 of the 31 eligible municipalitiesdid not have exclusionary zoning, Johnson stated, “There is primafacie evidence however, that the remaining six municipalities havezoning codes that are presumptively exclusionary under theHuntington standard. These municipalities have zoning regulationsthat either: perpetuate clustering by restricting multifamily ortwo-family housing to districts that have disproportionallyminority household populations; or disparately impact the Countyminority household population by restricting the development ofhousing types most often used by minority residents.”

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Johnson is the court-appointed housing monitor charged withoverseeing the federal fair housing case settlement reached in 2009that calls for Westchester County to build 750 new units of housingin 31 communities. The settlement, stemming from a housingdesegregation lawsuit brought by the Anti-Discrimination Center ofMetro New York filed against Westchester County in 2006, wasapproved by the Westchester County Board of Legislators and signedby then Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano.

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Since taking office in 2010, Westchester CountyExecutive Rob Astorino has been at odds with the USDepartment of Housing and Urban Development and Johnson over termsof the settlement, charging that HUD has imposed requirementsbeyond the scope of the settlement. HUD has rejected eight Analysisof Impediments (AIs) filed by the county and has deemed the countyin breach of the settlement and has withheld and reallocated morethan $7 million in Community Development Block Grant fundsearmarked for Westchester County municipalities. Anotherapproximately $5 million in CDBG funding is in jeopardy of beinglost in coming weeks. The county and HUD are in court over thetaking and reallocation of the CBDG funds. Westchester County hasfiled an appeal of a lower court ruling that backed HUD'sreallocation of the funds.

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Astorino is scheduled to deliver the keynote address atRealShare NewYork on Thursday, Oct. 9 at the Roosevelt Hotel in NewYork City.

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Ned McCormack, a spokesman for County Executiveand Republican gubernatorial nominee Astorino, says the countybelieves it is in compliance with the court settlement and in factis ahead of schedule building the mandated affordable housingunits.

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In terms of the county's reaction to the latest zoning-relatedreport from the Housing Monitor, McCormack, says that HUD and theHousing Monitor are “skewing the numbers” to make their case forexclusionary zoning practices, “We think this is an assault on homerule,” McCormack said. “We think they are using faulty data to backup their case, which is to counter our eight AIs which found noexclusionary zoning. They couldn't find it in these 26(municipalities) and in these others we think it is manufactureddata.”

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Earlier this summer, the county reported that in connection withthe housing settlement it had 407 housing units with financing inplace; (450 is the court-mandated benchmark for this year); 404units with building permits, which surpasses this year's benchmarkof 350; 184 units occupied; $34 million of the county's $51.6million budget committed; and $105 million leveraged from othersources (e.g. state, federal and foundation funds).

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The latest zoning study by the Housing Monitor was initiated atthe behest of Michael Kaplowitz, chairman of theWestchester County Board of Legislators, who istrying to save further federal CBDG funding earmarked forWestchester County from being reallocated elsewhere. Kaplowitzcould not be reached for comment at press time. The WestchesterCounty Board of Legislators is scheduled to discuss the housingsettlement today with the housing monitor.

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.