ECBAWM Counsel Diane Houk Negotiates Settlement of Race Discrimination Case Filed Against White Suburban Community
- June 3, 2021
On June 1, 2021, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement between ECBAWM client the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) and the Town of Eastchester, New York resolving a five-year lawsuit. The agreement obligates the Town to amend its zoning code to remove residency preferences for affordable senior housing and not to use similar preferences in any future housing programs it may operate for 30 years. The Town, whose senior population is 95% white, will remove obligations it had originally imposed on a mixed-income senior rental building in Eastchester to apply preferences for current Town residents.
FHJC alleged in its lawsuit that the preferences discriminate against senior Black and Latinx nonresidents in a County where the income-eligible senior population is 66% white. FHJC also alleged that the Town’s use of a similar residency preference in its housing rental voucher program caused Black and Latinx applicants, who were more likely to be nonresidents, to wait an average of 10-15 years for a voucher. At the same time, white applicants waited only 8 months to a year to receive a rental voucher. FHJC found that even though 75% of the Town’s voucher waiting list was Black or Latinx, 73% of those who received vouchers were white.
After ECBAWM filed the lawsuit, the Town abruptly closed its rental voucher program in early 2019 rather than bring it into compliance with fair housing laws. ECBAWM attorneys successfully advocated to the State of New York and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to transfer the program to the State, eliminate all residency preferences, and reorder the Town’s waiting list based on the date of application and not residency.
Later that same year, when ECBAWM learned that the Town told the developer of a new senior rental building they were required to agree to a restrictive covenant mandating residency preferences, ECBAWM attorneys filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the Town. The motion was resolved when the Town agreed the developer could begin initial rent-up without applying residency preferences.
After federal District Court Judge Vincent Briccetti rejected the Town’s efforts to dismiss the case by summary judgment in September 2020, the parties negotiated a resolution that includes $635,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.