The federal monitor overseeing Westchester County's compliance with the housing settlement entered into last year has approved a key element of the county's implementation plan – a model ordinance for local governments to adopt as a way to encourage new fair and affordable housing.
"The model ordinance is the linchpin of efforts to evaluate and streamline the local approval process," said the monitor, James Johnson, in a report to the federal court that appointed him. "The model ordinance was submitted in connection with the revised implementation plan and... is approved."
He stated further: "The model ordinance proposed by the County, in its current form, offers a template to municipalities that both meets the requirements of the Stipulation and is likely to be used by municipalities in Westchester County as a model for actual local ordinances."
Commenting on the monitor's report, County Executive Robert P. Astorino said, "The latest report from the monitor shows that Westchester is making steady progress in addressing the requirements of the settlement."
The housing settlement was entered into by former County Executive Andrew J. Spano with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Also approved by the Board of Legislators, it requires the county to ensure the development of 750 units of housing among 31 eligible communities and to undertake marketing that ensures outreach and fair housing education to racially and ethnically diverse households.
The model ordinance was developed with input from local officials as a tool for Westchester municipalities to facilitate the land use approvals and construction of fair and affordable housing.
Now that the ordinance is approved by the monitor, it next will be considered by the county Planning Board for inclusion in its long-range planning policy. After that, the county will ask local governments to review their existing laws and see if changes are warranted that affirmatively further fair housing.
For example, the county model suggests that all future housing developments include no less than 10 percent of the units as fair and affordable units, including limiting the sales/rent prices, limiting the income of the households eligible to apply for those units, and encouraging more extensive marketing of the housing opportunities.
In accepting the model ordinance, Johnson said he was continuing to review the county's entire implementation plan submitted in August, but found it more productive on his part to give approvals section by section.
As noted by the monitor in his submission to the federal court, 21 units have received county funding. Of these:
- Three housing units for people with disabilities at Freedom Gardens, an existing development in Yorktown, have received all approvals for the funding necessary
- 18 one-bedroom ownership units at the proposed Edgar Place/Rye Cottage Town Home in Rye were awaiting, at the time of the monitor's report, funds from the state's Affordable Housing Corp. for down payment assistance. However, this approval was announced Oct. 28.