County Opposition to HUD Zoning Directives on Affordable Housing, Loses $7.4 Million in Development Funds

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WPCNR COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. From the Westchester County Board of Legislators.(Edited) September 21, 2013:

A Friday court decision has cleared the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD) to reallocate $7.4 million in 2011 Community Development Block Grant funds.

The funds still can go to communities in Westchester County at HUD’s discretion.

The court’s decision, which stems from County Executive Rob Astorino’s non-compliance regarding the need to address exclusionary zoning, as stipulated in the fair and affordable housing settlement between the County and the federal government, now permits HUD to reallocate grant funding to other municipalities around the New York metropolitan area.

The 2011 CDBG funding was meant to financially support significant infrastructure improvements in fifteen municipalities around Westchester, as well the building of affordable housing and the delivery of programs related to housing needs. In nearly all of these instances, the work has already been completed and bills paid, which means the local taxpayers will have to pick up the budgetary shortfalls created by the loss of the CDBG funds.

“The federal government gave the Astorino Administration every opportunity to comply with the requirements attached to receiving these essential block grants and program funds,” said County Board Chairman, Kenneth Jenkins. “By simply submitting a plan to address exclusionary zoning in Westchester, the County could have mitigated this dispute, and the money would not have been lost.”

Jenkins noted the federal monitor of the housing settlement, James E. Johnson, Esq., even completed an independent analysis of exclusionary zoning in Westchester to help the County move toward compliance on the issue—and save the CDBG funds. Astorino roundly rejected Johnson’s findings, however.

“The loss of the federal block grant funds is a real blow to our communities and county taxpayers,” said Jenkins. “This money was going to municipalities around Westchester already operating on shoestring budgets. I am disappointed that County Executive Astorino found it necessary to wage public disinformation campaigns and score cheap political points rather than do what’s right for Westchester.”

The exact amounts within the $7.4 million include $5,378,557 of Community Development Block Grant programs, $1,655,688 for the HOME Investment Partnership program (which is used for affordable housing construction) and $405,939 for the Emergency Shelter / Solutions Grant program (which used for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing services).

Jenkins reiterated that the Astorino Administration still needs to focus on protecting the other ten million dollars of federal funds Westchester is in jeopardy of losing by providing substantial assurances that address outstanding issues regarding the housing settlement.

In May 2013, HUD addressed a number of the mischaracterizations and falsehoods that Astorino was repeating at town hall meetings, news conferences and media interviews regarding the County’s obligations under the Fair and Affordable Housing Settlement, most notably Astorino’s assertions that the settlement will require Westchester to fund construction of 10,768 new affordable units and that HUD wants the County “dismantle” zoning in certain communities or eliminate all zoning restrictions.

Yesterday, Johnson again stated at the BOL Committee of the Whole meeting that neither he nor HUD had the lawful ability to require the County to build more than the 750 units of housing as stipulated by the housing settlement.


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