County makes progress on federal affordable housing settlement, Astorino says

Written by Gerald McKinstry

Despite a continued stalemate with the federal government, County Executive Rob Astorino says Westchester remains well ahead of schedule on its affordable housing settlement.

In its quarterly report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the federal monitor, the Astorino administration maintains that 540, or 72 percent, of the required units are at some point in the planning pipeline.

“The county has made extraordinary progress and it is the result of our approach to work closely and cooperatively with municipalities, developers and non-profits around common goals,” Astorino said in a statement released Monday. “This will continue to be the county’s approach until we have fully met our obligations under the settlement. The numbers tell the story.”

The federal housing settlement was reached in 2009 and mandates that Westchester spend $52 million to help build 750 units in mostly wealthy and white communities over seven years. It also sets benchmarks along the way, notably that 200 units have financing and 125 have building permits by the end of 2012; the county expects to meet those goals by spring.

So far, 15 communities including Ardsley, Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, Hastings, Larchmont, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pelham, Pleasantville, Rye Brook, Rye, Somers, and Yorktown are at various stages of approval or in construction.

One three-family house in Pelham has residents living in the units.

More than 200 site reviews have taken place across all 31 communities, according to the report. The county has also set up a $2.5 million revolving loan fund to acquire and rehabilitate foreclosures in eligible municipalities. The county expects to gain an additional 14 units under this program.

But progress hasn’t been easy, in part because of disagreements with HUD and the federal monitor, James Johnson, on a range of issues, including local zoning and an income discrimination law that Astorino doesn’t support. HUD has also held back millions in community development block grant monies because of differences.

Those disagreements are being addressed in court.

“Even though that’s going on, we’re continuing to make progress,” said Ned McCormack, Astorino’s senior advisor and director of communications. “It’s important to keep moving… The process is working.”

HUD had no immediate comment Monday.

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