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Astorino: HUD is 'Overreaching' in County Affordable Housing Settlement

On Friday, County Executive Rob Astorino expressed indignation that HUD has found the county out of compliance with the affordable housing settlement and found its action plan incomplete.

County Executive Rob Astorino lambasted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in a press conference Friday, saying the department was overreaching in enforcing aspects of the county’s affordable housing settlement.

"We have no alternative but to say enough is enough to HUD," Astorino said Friday.

Astorino is scheduled to meet with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in Washington, DC on July 29 to discuss the affordable housing mandate. He held a press conference in White Plains to publicly ask the housing secretary to intervene "in ending the impasse created by his department's 'unprecedented bureaucratic overreaching' and 'unwarranted trampling of local zoning rights'."

"The bottom line is that HUD is asking us to spend money we don't have, pick fights with our own municipalities, do things we have no power to do and in fact may violate the New York State Constitution, local zoning and a host of environmental laws," he said.

There is a decided difference of opinion between HUD officials and the County Executive’s office about progress in enforcing which was reached in 2009 after an anti-discrimination group sued the county for taking federal housing funds without allegedly doing enough to further fair and affordable housing. In accordance with the settlement, the county will have to build 750 affordable housing units in 31 Westchester communities in the next seven years. HUD is tasked with ensuring the county complies with enforcing the terms of the settlement.

Astorino said Westchester County has 164 affordable housing units approved for development this year and is ahead of the requirement to complete 100 units by the end of 2011. Another 154 units have financing in place, and 107 have building permits in place. There are 102 units currently in the pipeline for local approval, according to information provided by the County Executive's office.

Astorino said HUD is now also calling for half of the 750 units to have three bedrooms. He said this demand "would force the county to run out of money well before all 750 units could be built."

The units currently under development are mostly studio and one-bedroom sized units. Costs are running at approximately $68,800 per unit in county-funded subsidy. Three-bedroom units could cost $150,000 per unit in county subsidy. The subsidy also includes funds from other agencies and grant programs.

Instead of the $51.6 million dollars the county has allocated for the project, providing 375 units of three bedrooms and 375 of the currently configured units could cost the county $94.3 million.

Things came to a head between HUD and the county with a recent letter. For the fifth time, HUD rejected a required element of the plan called an analysis of impediment (AI), which requires the county to stipulate the causes of the housing inequity. According to Astorino, the problems are based on economic ability to pay, not a pattern of racial discrimination.

"They are asking Westchester County for more than anywhere else in the United States," he said.

In the nine-page letter from HUD officials dated May 13, the agency outlines its reasons for rejecting the analysis of impediment statement.

The May 13 letter says that after working with the county on its rejected July 2010 AI statement: "the Submission remains substantially incomplete and unacceptable to HUD." 

According to HUD, the previous AI failed to specify how the county would carry out required mobility counseling, promote source-of-income legislation (referring to Section 8 vouchers, social security, supplemental security income, veteran's benefits and pensions) or increase the availability of affordable housing for families with children.

The letter also says that the county failed to explain or analyze its history of segregation and the impact that has had on its housing patterns. The letter also says the county has not planned a strategy to deal with “exclusionary zoning practices" or "consider[ed] the effects that the location of affordable housing will have on segregation patterns.”

The letter recommends that the county give municipalities three months to act upon restrictive zoning laws before using strong levers like withholding county funds or even litigation to force action.

In a passage that drew the ire of Astorino, the letter states: "The AI must address the County's obligation to affirmatively further fair housing beyond the four corners of the settlement...the County must include a description of its strategies to develop, support the development of, or preserve affordable housing in areas of the County that are not included in the Settlement and for housing units beyond those provided for in the settlement."

In a July 13 letter, Vincent Horn, HUD Director of Community Planning and Development, informed the county that its revised June 13, 2011 AI had failed to address the concerns of the May letter. Horn said: "Therefore, HUD is rejecting the County's certification..."  

The agency also has halted $6 million in payments of a Community Development Block Grant in the last of its three-year funding cycle.

Astorino says the move jeopardizes the jobs of 18 people who are working to ensure the county complies with the housing settlement. He said HUD is now using the rejected document to change the terms of the agreement and extending its concern into matters of local zoning practice.

Astorino also bristled at what he called HUD demands that the county make findings of racial discrimination and segregation.

"Westchester is the fourth most diverse county in New York, behind Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, tied with Manhattan," he said. "I don't think anyone would say Manhattan is not diverse."

"This is now an integration order," Astorino said. "We will not have a gun held to our heads to do things outside of our agreement."

 

According to a map provided by the County Executive's office, affordable housing units under development and review are located in the following areas:

Ownership Housing

  • Larchmont (Pinebrook Commons- 46 units)
  • Rye (Cottage Landings- 18 units)
  • Ardsley (Water Wheel- 17 units)
  • North Castle (Armonk Crossing- 10 units)
  • Yorktown (Crompond Crossing- 26 units)
  • Briarcliff Manor (445 N. State Road- 14 units)
  • Fewer units are under development in Pelham (3), Pleasantville (3), and Briarcliff Manor

Rental units

  • Cortlandt (- 83 units)
  • Yorktown (Freedom Gardens- 3 units)
  • Bedford ( Wildwood Road- 10 units)
  • New Castle (54 Hunts Lane- 36 units)
  • Briarcliff Manor (191 Revolutionary Road- 9 units)
  • Hastings (2 units, 4 ownership units with rental units)

Total Ownership units: 136

Total Rental units: 145

Mount Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, Port Chester, White Plains, Greenburgh, Sleepy Hollow, Ossining, Elmsford, Peekskill and Mount Kisco are not included in the agreement.

Pelham Manor, Bronxville, Eastchester, Tuckahoe, Scarsdale, Harrison, Rye Brook, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown, Mount Pleasant, Pound Ridge, Lewisboro, North Salem, Somers, Croton-on-Hudson, and Buchanan have no units under development at this time, according to information provided by the Westchester County Department of Planning.  

Shar July 21, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Lesly, The consequences are: Socialism never works...sooner than later you run out of other peoples money. Jesus said" The poor will always be with us"
Shar July 21, 2011 at 01:03 PM
http://www.fff.org/freedom/0490s.asp From the Future of freedom foundation: We were warned long ago: Now we are waking up. Thank Goodness for the "Tea Party" Why are Americans embracing socialism while the rest of the world is abandoning it? Because Americans have been taught since the first grade that when American governments own enterprises and redistribute wealth, this is free enterprise while when the Soviet and Chinese governments engage in this conduct, it is socialism. Americans have no idea that many decades ago, they abandoned the principles of liberty on which America was founded. Morever, Americans have been taught that if American businessmen support a government enterprise, then it must be free enterprise. After all, haven't we all learned in our government schools that American businessmen favor free enterprise? The unfortunate truth, however, is that the American businessman of today, unlike his counterpart of the 19th century, is all too ready to run to government for his welfare. He wants nothing to do with such notions as self-reliance, private ownership, unhampered markets, and private capital investment. He wants partnerships with the politicians to ensure that his potential losses will be covered by the citizenry whether they like it or not.
Cadeyrn July 21, 2011 at 01:07 PM
Lots of heat here. But it always come down to one flawed issue: the original premise is accepted as fact. No one bothers to question the assertion that life is, in fact, improved if government intervenes and forces its image on our reality. I say slaughter the premise ... at its inception. This is how the liberals have always operated. They formulate the hypothesis and instantly convert it to fact. And after that, it's all hot air garbage. Classy arguments. But is there really such a thing as "classy garbage"?
jeff meyer July 21, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Socialism, discrimination, racism, reverse discrimination ect... I have never seen a post on the Patch generate so many passionate, if not off point responses. At the end of the day Mr. Astorino needs to put up or shut up. If he feels the county has a case to fight HUD in the courts then let him do so. I doubt that these 200 or so post will influence his opinion very much. Go ahead Mr. Astorino, stop talking about it and fight it! You have far too many supporters than detractors on this site so politically it may help you. However, after you spend millions of taxpayers dollars on legal fees and fines you can blame the feds just like Yonkers did when it pointed its finger and scorned Judge Leonard Sand. Yonkers got a lot out of that, didn't they? Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe, NY
Shar July 21, 2011 at 01:15 PM
So jeff meyer wants us to just roll over and give in to HUD? Are you making threats now. I support Astorino and I sent him an e mail to tell him not to give up. Keep going.
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 01:19 PM
You seem to have forgotten the utter irresponsibility of the banking sector and that its failure caused the current economic collapse. If you're going to point to what you consider to be government failures, at least be honest about private sector failures as well.
John Craig July 21, 2011 at 01:28 PM
All I know is that people who use their full names (or even completely identify themselves as Paddy did) have a credibility edge over those that don't. And I would like to think that if Patch were paying people to comment, they spread the comments around more evenly to their other articles.
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 01:29 PM
I think all that Jeff is saying is that Westchester County has a legal obligation that it should fulfill. If it's true that HUD is now asking for half of the units to have three bedrooms, that is unreasonable and not part of the settlement. I have yet to see any documents that substantiate that, however. It may be true but it could also be political posturing. It would be helpful if Mr. Astorino posted the HUD demands publicly, so that people could react to facts. Assuming they care about facts, that is.
Cadeyrn July 21, 2011 at 01:30 PM
"Yonkers got a lot out of that, didn't they?" And look at Yonkers today. Thanks for proving my point.
Shar July 21, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Lesly, you are not taking into account the effect that cra had on the supply and demand of housing, the huge demand it caused made the bubble. If there had never been a bubble, mortgage backed securities would have been a safe investment
Shar July 21, 2011 at 01:39 PM
John, Paddy is trying to sell you an idea and make money off of the tax payer...of course he is going to use his real name....If I use my real name, I would have 100 left wing liberals show up on my lawn and turn over the garbage cans, break my windows
Lanning Taliaferro (Editor) July 21, 2011 at 01:47 PM
Hi, Patch editor here. We don't pay people to comment. I have deleted a series of comments toward the end of this fascinating thread because they were personal attacks. It may be that everyone is back to discussing the situation—and this discussion has been overall productive and enlightening—still if all we've got left is liberals spend too much and conservatives are racist than maybe it's time to close this thread.
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 01:59 PM
The mortgage industry — not all companies, of course —chose to sell mortgages that were likely to fail. It's been well-established that many companies engaged in predatory practices. There's something very wrong when companies make profits based on products designed to fail.
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 02:04 PM
Thanks, Lanny. I don't believe that all conservatives are racists. I've found some of the comments here disturbing, but they're made by particular individuals and it's sloppy thinking to generalize from that. I can't speak for anyone else who has posted here, of course.
Shar July 21, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Barney Frank, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac....Remember Barney Frank said there is nothing wrong with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2004 when Bush was trying regulate the lending practice.
FJT July 21, 2011 at 02:09 PM
It's so funny how liberals in this county and country are such fighters for things being ruled unconstitutional, but want to suppress people's different views s. Astorino godspeed on destroying these liberal commies spend as much as you can destroy the federal over step on our right to live where and how we want.
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Who's suppressing different views? Plenty of different views have been expressed here, including your own.
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Let's not forget Phil Gramm, Jim Leach, and Thomas Bliley, who gave us the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which is considered by many to have caused the housing crisis. Phil Gramm, of course, famously said in July, 2008, that the recession was a "mental recession" and that nothing was wrong with the economy.
FJT July 21, 2011 at 02:37 PM
carter started this bs with the community reinvestment act ordering banks to give mortgages to blacks and hispanics an people who have an inability to pay for the mortgage. And how is it Barney frank and commie chris dod get a pass from government oversight taking loans from banks they passed laws to benefit them? Liberals wakeup....
Shar July 21, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Today we must thank our County Executive Astorino, for tying his best NOT to repeat the Barney Franks and Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac economic debacle ...HUD is trying it's best to break the bank/tax payer in Westchester. Let us make sure HUD is held accountable.
jeff meyer July 21, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Shar, Are you serious? Making threats? What do you find in my posts that would even come close to a threat. Please, get a grip. My opinion is my opinion. I don't use false names or nicknames like Shar. I'm glad you support Mr. Astorino. I don't for the reasons I have already expressed. I'm sorry if that threatens anyone. Forgive me. Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe, NY
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 03:37 PM
It's interesting to see who is willing to use his or her real name and who isn't, isn't it?
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Paranoid much? I have yet to hear of a mob of "left wing liberals" attacking someone's home. Or, for that matter, mobs of any political sort doing that sort of thing.
Meredith Lesly July 21, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Not that I'm expecting you to pay attention to reality, but it's the Gramm-Leach-Billey act that set off the circumstances, not anything that Carter did.
FJT July 21, 2011 at 03:43 PM
LOOK AT ALL THESE LIBERAL HUD LOVERS AND LOOK WHRE THEY LIVE. THEY DON'T LIVE IN MT VERNON OR OTHER DESTROYED COMMUNITIES DUE TO HUD. I LOVE HOW LIBERAL LOVING NEWS 12 TALKS ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND LOOK WHERE THEIR NWS CASTRS LIVE ITS NOT IN HUD AREAS OR LOW INCOME AREAS. REMEMBER SOCIALISM IS FOR THE PEOPLE NOT THE SOCIALISTS..
Shar July 21, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Meyer, did you are did you not threaten the Westchester tax payer and Astrorino with a law suit if we do not do what you think is right? John Meyer said "The only certainty here is that the taxpayer will get slaughtered if Mr. Astorino pursues to pick a fight with the feds and not honor the directives of the agreement that "
Satta Sarmah July 21, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Hi Everyone, Please let's keep the discussion civil and refrain from name calling. Many of the comments here have been very insightful, but let's not let the discussion degenerate into an unpleasant one. We will shut down this thread if there is any more name-calling.
Shar July 21, 2011 at 04:30 PM
I think the UNIONs count as left wing liberal thug bullies not to mention other liberal organizations...surely you have heard of their shenanigans, marching on peoples lawns and scaring the hell out of their child....right now the left wing thugs are protesting in front of Speaker Boehner's home and over turning his garbage cans and making a ruckus in his neighborhood. Oh yes let us not forget the damage the wild party liberals did to Madison Wisconsin for weeks.
Lanning Taliaferro (Editor) July 21, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Hey, Shar, I'd love to get the URL link to that Washington Post story. Could you please email it to me: lanning.taliaferro@patch.com
Lanning Taliaferro (Editor) July 21, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Hi all, we're shutting this discussion down. We'll continue to cover the fair&affordable housing issue.

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