$62.5 M settlement reached to promote fair housing in Westchester County

On August 10, 2009, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote approved a $62.5 million settlement agreement in a landmark action brought by the Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC) against Westchester County, New York. In a legal first, the ADC sued under the federal False Claims Act to enforce the County’s obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” as a condition of receiving Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the federal government. Specifically, ADC alleged that over a period of six years, the County took CDBG funds under false pretenses by certifying to HUD that it affirmatively furthered fair housing, when in fact it failed, among other things, to consider race-based impediments to housing choice and to implement measures to overcome such impediments. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Westchester County must spend $52 million (the amount ADC alleges the County falsely obtained) to build at least 750 units of affordable housing within five years in County neighborhoods with very small African-American and Latino populations. Counsel for ADC are ADC Executive Director Craig Gurian and the law firm of Relman & Dane. For more background on the case, see Judge Cote’s opinion denying the County’s motion to dismiss the action and decision granting partial summary judgment for ADC and the August 11 New York Times article on the settlement.