Westchester County is an affluent suburban county of New York City. A recent court case addressed the residential patterns in the county, particularly focusing on the construction of affordable housing in wealthier, white areas:
Meanwhile, working-class black and Latino residents remain overwhelmingly concentrated in a handful of municipalities, most of which hug the Bronx border.
This is the case even though Westchester’s leaders signed a landmark consent decree in 2009, settling a lawsuit that accused the county of lying to the federal government about fair housing in its applications for federal funds. Officials agreed to build 750 units of affordable housing in the county’s whitest neighborhoods and to market the properties to potential black and Latino buyers. The court order also requires the county to analyze impediments to fair housing and to design an implementation plan to overcome them — with a stipulation that the county use all of its housing programs to support integration.
At the time, the agreement was celebrated as a milestone in fair housing and civil rights. But two years after the court order, Westchester had done nothing but ignore it. The county’s Republican-led government refuses to force predominantly white towns and villages to build fair housing; affordable units slated for construction are in largely nonwhite neighborhoods or commercial sites, exclusionary zoning ordinances remain in place, and the county has failed to submit a compliant plan to desegregate.
It was this record that led the Anti-Discrimination Center, which filed the original lawsuit in 2006, to return to court recently, charging that Westchester has “stubbornly and comprehensively refused to obey” the court order.
A fascinating and familiar story. Westchester County is not the only place that experienced these issues: DuPage County faced a similar court case in the 1970s that accused the county of exclusionary zoning and some “super-majority white” Atlanta suburbs were recently part of a lawsuit.
On the whole, it is tough to convince wealthy and white suburbanites that their communities should include cheaper, affordable, and/or subsidized housing.