The Town of Bedford has settled a discrimination lawsuit with two affordable housing organizations, denying any wrongdoing but agreeing to pay $165,000 in damages and eliminating a system of preferences that made it difficult for African-Americans to qualify for middle-income housing.The settlement was announced by Westchester Residential Opportunities, which, with the Fair Housing Justice Center, sued Bedford and Blue Mountain Housing Development Corp. last year.
The town created Blue Mountain in 1980 to develop and renovate affordable housing. In 2005, it set up a system of preferences for allocating the housing to middle-income people.
The housing groups claimed that the preferences were tilted in favor of white people and created barriers for African-Americans, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The rules, for instance, allegedly favored mostly white cohorts, beginning with town employees, followed by active members of the fire departments and ambulance service, and then school employees.
The town said it did not discriminate, in its answer to the complaint, “on the basis of race, national origin or any other reason, intentionally or otherwise.”
Town Supervisor Chris Burdick said in a prepared statement that the town and Blue Mountain have denied the allegations and denied wrongdoing. He said they have taken numerous actions to promote fair and affordable housing and to comply with the Fair Housing Act.
He said key staff will undergo training and the zoning code will be amended to eliminate preferences and provide incentives to develop middle-income housing.
“This settlement is a step toward dismantling the segregation that still exists in Westchester,” Marlene Zarfes, WRO’s deputy executive director said in a news release.
Attorneys Diane L. Houk and Zoe Salzman of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady in Manhattan represented the housing groups. Eric L. Gordon of Keane & Beane in White Plains represented Bedford.