Westchester County, New York – one of the nation’s wealthiest and whitest suburbs – has reached a landmark desegregation agreement to create affordable housing for moderate-income people. The settlement came in a False Claims Act suit filed by Anti-Discrimination Center, an anti-discrimination group which alleged that Westchester County lied when it applied for federal Community Development Block Grants by claiming that it had complied with grant requirements to encourage fair housing. In February, a New York federal trial judge ruled that from 2000 to 2006, the County had indeed misrepresented its attempts to desegregate overwhelmingly white suburbs when it sought federal housing funds. As part of the settlement agreement, Westchester County admitted that it has the power to challenge zoning rules in towns that fend off affordable housing by mandating large minimum lot sizes, discouraging high-density projects and taking vacant property for purposes other than affordable housing. Under the settlement agreement, the County agreed to initiate legal proceedings, if necessary, against municipalities that obstruct the County’s desegregation efforts. A federal monitor has been named to ensure that the County observes the terms of the agreement. The Westchester County Board of Legislators has 45 days to approve the settlement.
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