As families move into the first affordable housing units mandated by the federal government, Westchester County says it's ahead of schedule in its obligation to build 750 fair housing units.
But a range of civil rights groups and the plaintiff in the case, New York City-based Anti-Discrimination Center, dispute the county's claim. The majority of affordable housing projects in the works continue the practice of "exclusionary zoning" and won't make an impact in housing segregation in the county, they say.
The first affordable housing unit was sold late last year, and two families are moving into rental units in a three-family house this month, according to the county.
The county also touted its progress in moving larger projects through ahead of schedule: 108 affordable housing units already have building permits, and an additional 182 are already financed, according to a report released on Monday.
The settlement agreement required financing for 100 units and permits for 50 units by the end of 2011; in the report, the county says it's making "significant progress" and "exceeded the settlement agreement's 2011 benchmarks."
The rest of the projects are "in the pipeline," according to the county. That means different things for each community: most have identified sites for affordable housing, some are still working their way through public hearings and planning stages, and others are awaiting financing and the necessary permits to build.
One of the central arguments of the original lawsuit against Westchester County was that Westchester's communities are fundamentally segregated, according to the Anti-Discrimination Center.
The county says it's been mindful of that complaint, and says "232 of 540 units" in the pipeline "are in blocks that had zero percent African American and zero percent Hispanic population, according to the 2000 census."
The Anti-Discrimination Center disagrees. Westchester County "rejected each and all of the premises and objectives of the Decree," and the federal housing monitor overseeing the settlement hasn't held the county to account, according to the group.
Many of the proposed housing sites don't meet the settlement's obligation to desegregate neighborhoods and communities, the group says.
According to a statement released by the Anti-Discrimination Center on Jan. 10: "The Rye property, for example, is on a block that is between 50 and 51 percent Latino and African-American. No one could seriously believe that development on that block does anything other than perpetuate patterns of segregation."
The county's report mostly focused on ongoing planning, construction and zoning to meet the settlement requirements, it also includes some criticism of the federal government for blocking access to community-improvement grants and other funding. While the lawsuit is pending, some communities haven't been able to collect Community Development Block Grants and other funds.
“The county has made extraordinary progress and it is the result of our approach to work closely and cooperatively with municipalities, developers and non-profits around common goals,” County Executive Robert P. Astorino said in a statement. “This will continue to be the county’s approach until we have fully met our obligations under the settlement. The numbers tell the story.”