Westchester County remains almost a year ahead of schedule in meeting the fundamental benchmarks of developing affordable housing under terms of its settlement with the federal government, County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced recently.
As of this month, the county has 206 housing units approved by the federal housing monitor, of which 182 have all financing in place and 108 units have building permits in place. Under the terms of the settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the county was only required to have 100 units with financing and 50 units with building permits by the end of 2011. The settlement calls for 200 units with financing and 125 with building permits by the end of 2012. The county expects to meet these benchmarks by March.
And in the latest indication of the county’s progress, a lottery was held Thursday for 18 nearly completed units in Rye City that will be ready for occupancy by April. Previously, lotteries were held for 83 units in Cortlandt, one unit in Pleasantville and a three-family house in Pelham.
“These are important accomplishments and clearly show that the county is more than meeting its obligations under the 2009 housing agreement with the federal government,” Astorino said. “Our progress is the result of working cooperatively with our local communities and experienced developers. We have reviewed more than 200 potential sites across every one of the 31 eligible communities that are part of the settlement.”
The housing settlement entered into in 2009 by former County Executive Andrew J. Spano, the Board of Legislators and HUD requires the county government to ensure the development of 750 units of fair and affordable housing over a seven-year period in 31 mainly white communities. The agreement includes benchmarks for financing and obtaining building permits that must be in place by the end of each year. It also requires the county to market the housing in a way to reach non-white populations, not only in Westchester but also in New York City and surrounding counties. The county faces severe financial penalties if it fails to meet certain benchmarks.
HUD’s current dispute with Westchester is not over what is in the settlement but over actions taken by the federal agency attempting to impose requirements the county believes are outside the settlement.
Specifically, the dispute has to do with a document called an Analysis of Impediments (AI). Prior to the settlement, HUD routinely approved the AIs the county submitted. But HUD has rejected the county’s AI tied to the settlement five times.
On May 13, 2011, HUD sent a letter to the county saying the AI must go “beyond the four corners of the settlement.” The county’s position is that it will live up to all of its obligations in the settlement but that HUD has no legal authority to dictate new terms.
“Westchester is a diverse, welcoming community and I will vigorously defend the rights of people to live in any community of their choosing,” said Astorino. “But the settlement applies equally to all the parties, which means HUD can’t make up its own rules.”
The various housing units being developed include both ownership and rental units that are marketed to the public, particularly in minority communities. As they become available, the units are sold or rented based on a lottery of interested applicants who meet certain income criteria. In the order names are drawn, applicants are given appointments to begin the qualification process.
Westchester is the fourth most diverse county in New York in terms of Hispanic and African American population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. It is virtually tied with Manhattan, ahead of Staten Island and only trails Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. If Westchester were a state, it would rank seventh in Hispanic population and 14th in African-American population.
Over the last 10 years, the 31 mostly white communities covered in the settlement have seen their Hispanic and African-American populations increase by 56 percent through natural market forces.
The settlement’s units are available to income-eligible individuals and families, irrespective of race or ethnic background. Depending on the unit (and the kind of financing it received) the income limits are set at varying percentages of the county’s “area median income” (AMI). A chart with these percentages based on family size can be found on HUD Income, Sales and Rent Limits.
Last week, a lottery was held by the Housing Action Council, a non-profit agency with whom the county works closely, for the 18 Rye Cottage Townhomes located at Edgar Place on Cottage Street. These units are comprised of one-bedroom and one-bedroom plus den condominiums that will sell for $150,000 and $165,000 respectively.
One of the previous lotteries held was for 83 units as part of the 92 unit development known as Roundtop Commons, located along Rt. 9A in Montrose. These one- and two-bedroom rental units are available to households earning up to 50 and 60 percent of the county’s AMI. Rents are expected to range from $870 to $1,067 for a one-bedroom unit and from $1,035 to $1,270 for a two-bedroom unit. Separate lotteries were held for the units in Pleasantville and Pelham.
Anyone interested in these or future units is encouraged to start working with a housing counseling agency now so they are credit-ready at the time units become available. People are also encouraged to sign-up to receive information and unit applications on the county’s Homeseeker section of its Web site. Last year this site was updated to include a mapping tool that allows interested homeseekers to view developments in construction or available for rent and sale, and see what educational, transportation, job and commercial opportunities are available in the areas surrounding the homes. (See www.westchestergov.com/homeseeker)
The following is a thumbnail sketch of some of the developments that are proceeding:
This project was the focus of the lottery last week, with 61 families applying.
The Rye Cottage Townhomes, located at Edgar Place on Cottage Street, contain 18 fair and affordable one-bedroom and one-bedroom plus den condominium ownership units, which will sell for $150,000 and $165,000 respectively. These units will be available to households earning up to 80 percent of the county AMI. A one-person household can earn up to $60,400, while a two-person household can earn up to $69,100.
Financing: The county is providing grants of $1,356,000 from its Fair and Affordable Housing (FAH) capital fund and $880,000 in federal HOME funds towards the total development cost of $5,761,000. The complex will also include four market-rate units, which will be privately funded.
This project was the focus of a lottery in September, which drew from 524 entry applications.
Roundtop Commons, located along Rt. 9A in Montrose, contains 91 fair and affordable one- and two-bedroom rental units, all of which will be available to households earning up to 50 and 60 percent of the county’s AMI. A one-person household can earn up earn up to $37,800 for a 50 percent AMI unit or up to $45,360 for a 60 percent AMI unit; and two-people households can earn up to $43,200 for a 50 percent AMI unit and $51,840 for a 60 percent AMI unit. There also will be a unit for the superintendent. Eighty-three units in the complex will count towards the county’s commitment to help develop 750 units of fair and affordable housing. Rents are expected to range from $870 to $1,067 for a one-bedroom unit and from $1,035 to $1,270 for a two-bedroom unit.
Financing: The county is providing loans of $5,474,000 in FAH funds and $1,607,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and a grant of $1,659,000 in New Homes Land Acquisition (NHLA) funds towards the total development cost of more than $30 million.
The Freedom Gardens for the Handicapped development will provide three fair and affordable rental units for physically handicapped households at or below 60 percent of the AMI, in a new building on a portion of their approximately 5-acre site located at 1680 Strawberry Road in Mohegan Lake. The apartments will rent for $1,353 a month, with additional assistance being provided through the Section 8 voucher program.
Financing: The county is providing a grant of $225,000 of federal HOME funds toward the total development cost of $952,000.
Also in Yorktown, a new 26-unit fair and affordable townhouse development will begin construction in early 2012 on Old Crompond Road. The three bedroom, two and one half bath units will be available for households earning up to 80 percent of the county’s AMI. The units are expected to sell for just over $225,000.
Financing: The county is providing a grant of $1,420,000 in FAH funds for the acquisition of the land, $1,500,000 for infrastructure work, and $500,000 in HOME funds for construction of the modular units.
This unit was the focus of a lottery in December, which drew 19 entries.
The Pleasantville Housing Development Fund Company has acquired a two bedroom condominium units within a complex and is offering it for resale at a below market level. The unit at 393 Manville Road will be sold to a family earning at or below 80 percent of the AMI.
Financing: The County contributed a grant of $52,500 and has given a loan in the amount of $160,000 to purchase the unit and resell it at a lower sales price. Upon the resale of the unit, the County’s $160,000 loan will be repaid.
Also in Pleasantville, a house, located at 55 Pleasant Avenue in the village of Pleasantville, will be rehabilitated and slightly expanded to allow for an accessory apartment to be added to the original house. The owner’s unit will have three bedrooms and will be available for a household earning up to 80 percent of the county’s AMI. The one bedroom apartment will be available for a household earning up to 60 percent of the county’s AMI. A three-person household can earn up earn up to $77,700 for the ownership unit, or a four-person household can earn up to $86,300. The accessory unit would be available for a one person household earning up to $45,360.
Financing: The county is providing grants of $100,000 in FAH funds, and $26,000 in Lead Safe Westchester funds toward the total development cost of about $435,000.