A federal False Claims Act action against Westchester County, New York launched a unique effort to explore whether zoning, subsidies, and advocacy could significantly Increase the percentage of minorities living in largely white communities. A Voluntary Cooperation Agreement entered into by Marin County, California raises a similar question. This article describes the legal background of the lawsuit brought against Westchester County, the Settlement Agreement that arose from it, and the attempt by Westchester County to carry out its obligations to affirmatively further fair housing. It traces the evolution of exclusionary zoning law in New York State courts, contrasts it to statutory approaches in New Jersey and Connecticut, and reviews the tepid efforts of the New York State legislature to tackle the problem of articulating the affordable housing obligations of local governments. The authors detail the progress made in Westchester County and explain their own initiative to use training, education, and technical assistance to further the efforts by communities to provide fair and affordable housing. The article also explains the significance of the implementation of the Settlement Agreement and that while Westchester County will probably meet most of the literal terms of the Settlement, the goal of achieving significant racial integration in largely white census tracts, and all the benefits of diversity that integration achieves, remains elusive. Finally, it considers what can be done at the state level to achieve integration goals, while still pursuing other state policies regarding smart growth, climate change mitigation, energy conservation, and housing equity in densely settled urban areas.
John R. Nolon & Tiffany Zezula, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: The Search for Solutions That are Just Right, Zoning & Plan. L. Rep., July 2012, at 1.