In an agreement that will have "a sweeping effect on communities nationwide," Westchester County officials have agreed to spend more than $50 million "to create affordable housing in overwhelmingly white communities and aggressively market it to non-whites in the county and in neighboring New York City."
The agreement settles a lawsuit filed against the county by an organization called the Anti-Discrimination Center. County officials had fought the lawsuit for three years, but settled because of what County executive Andrew Spano calls "a historic shift of philosophy" by federal housing officials.
Under the Obama administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is intent on integrating the most racially segregated neighborhoods in not just Westchester County but across the country. HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims says the Westchester County settlement "can serve as a model for building strong, inclusive sustainable communities in suburban areas across the entire United States."
So what's in store for Westchester and other suburban counties across the country?
For one thing, higher crime.
For years the federal government has been tearing down public housing projects in inner cities and giving the displaced residents Section 8 vouchers which allow them to rent housing in upscale suburban neighborhoods. According to an article last summer in The Atlantic, police have discovered there is a "near-perfect" match between Section 8 rentals and incidents of violent crime.
Second, lower levels of civic health.
In what was the largest study ever conducted on civic engagement in America, Robert Putnam, a liberal Harvard University professor, found that "all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings." Specifically, Putnam found that "the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings."
Although all the research indicates otherwise, racial diversity is still regarded as a civic strength. Treacly "fair housing" radio ads recently produced by the National Fair Housing Alliance tout racial and ethnic diversity as the key to happiness, success in the global marketplace and, not least, an interesting life.
And, as reported on this blog last month, Money Magazine's recently released list of the 100 "Best Places to Live" in America arbitrarily excluded towns that are more than 95% white from consideration. According to Money, towns that don't have their share of drive-by shootings and psychotic Haitian immigrants who go around beheading people are sad, unsuccessful, and boring places.
The whole country's about to get a lot more exciting.