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HUD targets liberal New York enclave for social engineering

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

Despite progressive tendencies and racial diversity, the New York suburb of Westchester — which voted heavily for President Obama in 2008 — is not safe from the administration’s focus on social engineering.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is concerned that Westchester County is too white and even though the county is outpacing the schedule to fulfill a 2009 settlement with HUD — in which the county agreed to spend over $50 million on 750 new subsidized housing units to be provided to minorities via a lottery system (630 of which had to be built in neighborhoods with less than 3 percent African-American and 7 percent Latino populations) — HUD is ordering the county to do more. All this, even though the 2010 census indicates that Westchester is the fourth most racially diverse county in the state — tied with Manhattan.

While Westchester is ahead of schedule, HUD is now ordering actions outside the original settlement: Spending nearly double the original settlement (now $94 million); mandating that 50 percent of the 750 units have 3 bedrooms; constructing the units in “above average school districts;” ordering that local municipalities change zoning laws and “counter community opposition;” and demanding the county investigate and regulate bank lending practices.

According to the county, the HUD is overstepping its bounds and the county will fight the order.

“The federal government is trying to change the goal posts in the middle of the game. They’re trying to expand the terms of the settlement from a straightforward agreement to build housing into an integration order,” Jessica Proud, spokeswoman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, told TheDC.

“The county executive has made it clear that he will fulfill his obligation to implement the terms of the settlement, but he will stand firm against Washington’s overreach and will not surrender to their unreasonable demands,” she added.

Astorino said that he was completely taken aback by HUD’s orders, especially considering Westchester’s census diversity and past praise from HUD officials for the county’s housing policies.

According to Astorino, HUD is using Westchester as an example for the rest of the country.

“They are going to make Westchester the test case, and use the formula for Westchester throughout the country. They now publicly call this an integration order and not a housing settlement,” Astorino said. “And so this is their agenda, but I think they picked the wrong county. We’re diverse. We do not discriminate or segregate. We’re welcoming. And just through natural progression we’ve had a major influx of African-American and Hispanics in all these communities.”

Astorino’s claims are accurate. Based on census records from 2000-2010 the population of minorities in the county has increased by 56 percent.

HUD told TheDC that it expects the county to comply with their orders to create “communities of opportunity.”

“Two years ago, Westchester County entered into an agreement to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 localities,” HUD Regional Administrator Adolfo Carrión wrote in an emailed statement. “This agreement is not merely about bricks and mortar, or simply about a specific number of housing units; it is about removing barriers and creating communities of opportunity. HUD has provided technical assistance and other resources to assist the County in meeting its obligations under the agreement, and stands ready to be a partner with the County as it moves forward to affirmatively further fair housing.  It is our expectation that the County Executive will provide the leadership needed to comply with the letter and the spirit of the settlement.”

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