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Lawyers busy in plans to build affordable housing in Westchester

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino addresses county officials

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino addresses county officials and citizens during the State of the County at the Westchester County Courhouse in White Plains. (April 25, 2012) Credit: Faye Murman

Westchester County is headed to familiar territory with its controversial housing settlement with the federal government: back to court.

That’s where they are already awaiting a ruling on an appeal over a law that would bar landlords from discriminating against tenants based on how they will pay rent. HUD doesn't want landlords to exclude those who use federal Section 8 housing vouchers.

The latest legal maneuver stems from zoning issues relating to the 2009 landmark settlement. Federal monitor James E. Johnson and the U.S. Justice Department on Friday asked a judge to force the county to turn over information regarding exclusionary zoning practices. They are expected to have a conference Wednesday.

So if you’re keeping score three years into the settlement to build 750 units in 31 of Westchester’s wealthier communities, it's the lawyers who are the busiest.

In papers filed with the court, Johnson wrote that the county's compliance with requests for “information, reports and analysis has been all too frequently marked by delay, incomplete production and, at times, wholesale failure to respond.”

The county says it’s ahead of schedule on the housing and doesn’t believe exclusionary zoning exists, so there’s no reason to outline penalties for communities that have rules that hinder such housing.

“There’s a contract. We’re committed to what’s in the contract,” said Ned McCormack, Astorino’s senior adviser. “A deal is a deal … It’s about building affordable housing." 

Seems like this is one deal where the actual construction of units is the good way to keep tabs on progress. But now it's in the hands of a judge.