‘The 100th Nail in the Coffin’ for Integration in Westchester County

‘The 100th Nail in the Coffin’ for Integration in Westchester County, Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, August 1, 2017, available here

For years, Westchester County insisted its zoning laws did not prevent black and Latino families from moving into wealthy suburbs north of New York City — even in a town like Pound Ridge, which is 94 percent white.

Almost all homes in that bucolic community accommodate single families. Apartments are hard to come by; in most areas, the zoning law requires a special permit to build a multifamily complex.

It was this kind of setup that led a federal judge to rule in 2009 that Westchester had violated the nation’s fair housing laws. In a landmark order, the judge told the county to identify ways in which its zoning laws impede integrated housing.

Westchester turned in draft after draft of an “analysis of impediments,” and each time, officials in the Obama administration rejected it. The reports laid out demographics and zoning maps, sometimes in more than 200 pages, but insisted “there is no zoning-related barrier to minority populations.” Housing officials argued this refusal to acknowledge the barriers was keeping the county from adequately analyzing them and coming up with solutions.

Last month, the Trump administration allowed Westchester a shortcut: Take out the lines refuting discrimination.

It worked.

On July 18, the Department of Housing and Urban Development accepted the edited report — the county’s 11th revision — just three months after rejecting the last one.

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