Legislator Announces 'Break' In Westchester, HUD Logjam Over Housing

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Westchester Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) hopes to break the log jam with HUD by doing another assessment of impediments. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Westchester Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) hopes to break the log jam with HUD by doing another assessment of impediments. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Chairman Michael Kaplowitz represents New Castle, Somers and Yorktown.
Chairman Michael Kaplowitz represents New Castle, Somers and Yorktown. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Westchester Legislator John Test (R-Peekskill) responds to Chairman Michael Kaplowitz's announcement. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The federal monitor overseeing the 2009 affordable housing settlement will conduct another test on behalf of Westchester looking for exclusionary zoning in its communities, which county Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D–Somers) said Wednesday is the “logjam break that we have been waiting for.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has rejected all eight of these tests, known as an analysis of impediments (AI), that Westchester has previously submitted. None found exclusionary zoning.

“I feel that now what they’re trying to do is manipulate the process to come up with the results that they predetermined should be there, that there is exclusionary zoning in the county,” Legislator John Testa (R-Peekskill), minority leader on the county board, said.

Kaplowitz said all eight have been Berenson tests, which looks at the impact of socio-economic status, as opposed to the Huntington test, which looks at a community’s racial composition to see if it would create exclusionary zoning. He said the settlement requires the county to conduct a Huntington test.

Testa disagreed, saying the county has done both tests and that HUD keeps moving the bar. 

The federal monitor, Jim Johnson will collect and analyze data from the 31 eligible communities under the settlement and issue a report on his Huntington test by Aug. 15.

“It’s far better knowing that there is an issue on your own terms, on a timely basis without waiting for it to get worse, and then at that point one can make modifications,” Kaplowitz said, adding the test won’t cost taxpayers any money.

Westchester lost its 2011 block grants, totaling $7.4 million and is in danger of losing another $5.2 million in 2012 grants because it failed to adopt Johnson’s 2013 report, which found seven communities had exclusionary zoning. His report did not use a Huntington test, but gave the county steps to “comply with the law.”

Johnson said in a May 27 letter to Kaplowitz that Astorino’s administration has taken no steps in the eight months since to further that analysis.

On the other hand, the Town of Mamaroneck has modified its zoning and been removed from the list of seven. Of the six remaining, five have been talking to Johnson, without the county’s involvement, to help remove its exclusionary zoning, Kaplowitz said.

“We understand many of these communities are right on the cusp of, and in fact will be legislating some changes to their exclusionary zoning,” he said.

While Croton, Lewisboro, Pound Ridge, the Town of Ossining and Pelham Manor have all started those talks, Harrison “isn’t as far along,” according to Kaplowtiz.

The hope is that when Johnson completes his report in August that he will find no exclusionary zoning because the six communities will have modified their zoning. However, Kaplowitz said this must all be done within the parameters of the 2009 settlement.

“What we’ve agreed to is in fact what we’re going to live up to. No more, no less,” he said, referring to the settlement.

Testa said he is worried they will be required to go beyond the settlement as the county board works on legislation assuring HUD that Westchester will conform with the settlement and "affirmatively furthers fair housing.”

“We’re looking for a way to help, but we are not going to give away our home rule and we’re not going to give away things that were negotiated in the settlement,” he said.

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"Westchester lost its 2011 block grants, totaling $7.4 million and is in danger of losing another $5.2 million in 2012 grants because it failed to adopt Johnson’s 2013 report, which found seven communities had exclusionary zoning."

We pay huge federal taxes only to have our own money used as a weapon against us. We need to completely get rid of HUD, and slash federal taxes to the absolute minimum.

Why should a huge sector of the population only pay little token mini-rents (less than $300 on 3 to 5-bedroom apartments), while these same Section 8 recipients typically only work 20 hours per week at unskilled jobs?

Free markets would give everyone of every income level a better housing deal.

The Settlement is unsustainable, because after they build all the Section 8 housing in the middle-class neighborhoods, we are also required to provide the Section 8 recipients with adequate job opportunities, public transportation, access to healthcare facilities, in short everything that was easily obtainable in the urban areas that they would be leaving.

We don't have jobs for college-educated middle-class people. How are we going to create jobs for the newcomers?

We would have to double or triple our county taxes to meet these goals. And, don't forget that they are already the highest in the nation.

Isn't it obvious that if the unelected Housing Czar Jim Johnson succeeds, everyone is just going to abandon Westchester, and all the infrastructure, and parks, and lovely quiet neighborhoods are all going to be destroyed?

The 2009 Housing Settlement hurts everyone, esp. minorities! Obama is committed to fulfilling a Communist ideal in which every block of housing perfectly reflects the overall racial composition of the nation.

If such a plan succeeded wouldn't that mean that members of minority groups would find great difficulty in winning any election, even at local levels?

How easily could a minority group organize, if their populations are scattered randomly over huge regions?

Neither the NYC lawyer Johnson nor Obama have seriously considered the implications of this policy.

The only people in support are corrupt politicians with ties to the "affordable housing" industry.

The fed guv is running amok.

HUD does not understand that the impediments to housing are not based upon race, the impediments are based upon finances. Until the Obama administration does something to curtail the outsourcing of good paying jobs, nothing will help the erosion of home buyers ability to purchase a home in the community of their choice. The creation of low paying jobs is not the answer nor is attempted forced redistribution of wealth the answer. Other impediments to housing include lack of family structure and failure to take school seriously. Until all of the above is corrected, there will always be impediments and the impediments will not be the result of zoning.

Why does HUD keep equating economic discrimination with racial discrimination? Economic discrimination, meaning you can't live where you can't afford the house, is not illegal. Zoning laws are not connected to racial discrimination. Zoning laws decide WHAT can be built, not WHO can live there. If HUD thinks that local zoning laws prevent minorities from ever being able to live in affluent communities then they are truly the ones who are racist.