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Audit: Blacks, Latinos Still Likely to Face Housing Bias in Whitest Parts of Westchester

Three years after Westchester County entered into a landmark desegregation settlement with the federal government, tests show that minority home seekers still face discrimination in many areas.

More than three years after Westchester County signed a landmark desegregation settlement, black and Latino home seekers still often face discrimination in the county’s whitest communities, results of a fair housing audit released this week show.

Between April 2011 and October 2012, Westchester Residential Opportunities Inc.  – a private fair housing group -- sent trained testers into communities targeted by the settlement to test for discrimination by real estate agents and landlords based on race or national origin. Testing is considered the best way to check for compliance with fair housing laws.

Under the audit designed by Westchester Residential Opportunities, first a black or Latino tester would inquire about an apartment or home. Then a white tester with slightly lower financial qualifications would ask about the same place. 

The audit found that black and Latino testers were discriminated against in 40 percent of the 90 tests conducted. They were treated the same as white testers in 48 percent; 12 percent of the tests were inconclusive.

Overall, the tests showed that black and Latino home seekers still face significant odds of being steered to heavily minority areas by real estate agents and denied the opportunity to view apartments.

The results seem to belie County Executive Rob Astorino’s insistence that racial discrimination is no longer a significant problem in Westchester. In an investigation published last November, ProPublica chronicled the county’s resistance to the mandate to integrate at the heart of the settlement it reached with the federal government in 2009.

The audit seems to bolster mapping by ProPublica that found that race – and not just income, as some county officials have contended – contributes to the county’s residential segregation patterns.

The audits covered towns such as Cortlandt, Yorktown, Scarsdale, Bronxville, North Castle and Dobbs Ferry. In Mount Pleasant, where Astorino lives, African Americans and Latinos were treated differently than white testers in six of 13 tests. In affluent Scarsdale, which has a long history of animosity toward affordable housing, black and Latinos faced unequal treatment in four cases and were treated the same as white testers in just one.

Read the entire study here.

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