Active Rain December 24, 2010

HUD Rejects Westchester’s Affordable Housing Proposal

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has rejected Westchester County’s latest proposal for affordable housing to be built in the county as a result of last year’s settlement of the government’s lawsuit.

The “problem” is as old as the county, but the upshot is that the government has said enough is enough and it is time to break down the economic barriers that have kept some towns in the county overwhelmingly white. You can read more background on the issue from the NY Times and Anti discrimination Center website

There are some who will accuse the government of trying to be a social engineer, and I can understand the sentiment. However, I think that the crux of the matter is that the county has been taking money from the government under false pretenses for decades, and government money comes with mandates that if not met can get you in hot water. In our county’s case, that hot water spelled out to a $50 million settlement and the construction of 750 affordable units in towns that had a dearth of diversity or housing priced to foster it. 

In actuality, the real social engineering has been by the local municipalities themselves since the Second World War. When you are less than an hour from Manhattan and your population is some ridiculously high percentage white, the fix is in, whether it is zoning, selective rejection of development, or whatever else they have going on. The result is that neighboring towns become very diverse, creating a checkerboard -like quality in the area that is only spoken of in hushed tones in polite company. 

It is almost 2011. That doesn’t wash. The Not in my Back Yard ethic has to go, and the towns that are behind the affordability and diversity curve need to step up and dispense with the excuses and foot dragging. It is the right thing to do.