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Property Costs Stump Bronxville Affordable Housing

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – Three years have passed since Westchester County settled a housing-discrimination lawsuit and pledged to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 communities where the majority of residents are white. Bronxville has yet to fulfill this pledge, but officials say it’s not from a lack of trying.

“We’ve been trying extremely hard,” Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin said. “We’ve been bringing properties to the county anytime we can find something. We’ve worked relentlessly with our real estate and rental agents.”

The biggest issue for Bronxville rentals is that the lawsuit requires a 50-year commitment from a property owner, Marvin said. “That’s a big stumbling block for a landlord,” she said. “Committing to 50 years hinders the property owner from selling if they wanted to. I’d love to see an amendment to that.”

Throughout the county, 26 affordable housing units have officially opened in 2012, more than 200 units have financing in place and more than 100 units have building permits. “That puts the county as a whole ahead of where HUD needed us to be at this point,” Marvin said, referring to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Mayor Marvin and her partners at the county level are working diligently to identify opportunities to fulfill the Fair and Affordable Housing agreement,” said Gordon Burrows, a legislator for District 15. “Bronxville is a challenging municipality to develop any kind of new housing simply because there is very little land that is not already developed.”

Both Marvin and Burrows opposed the agreement in 2009 because of the limitations on converting existing apartments into affordable housing. In addition, HUD is withholding the county’s community development block grants, totaling $12 million. With Bronxville properties selling at an average of $1.5 million, finding affordable space is difficult.

“We’ve given the county a bunch of options, but the numbers haven’t worked yet in Bronxville,” Marvin said. “I’m frustrated with the terms of this agreement, and it’s impeding the ultimate goal of affordable housing.”

Burrows said, “I believe that we would have more success in providing the units required through rehabilitating existing apartments and placing them into the market.”

As for the number of units needed in Bronxville, the mayor said the number is up in the air. “Nobody had a pro-rata requirement,” she said. “We were just told to get some units and make the best attempt we could.”

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