This story has been corrected to show that North Salem's 65-unit project has been approved by the planning board.
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – It's been three years since Westchester County settled a housing-discrimination lawsuit by pledging to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 mostly white communities.
Legal issues in the case remain - just last week a federal judge ordered the county to stop dragging its feet in complying with the terms of the settlement. Still, construction of affordable housing has already begun throughout Westchester.
Today, 26 affordable housing units have officially opened, with 23 units finished in 2012. More than 200 units have financing in place and more than 100 units have building permits. A total of 542 housing units are “in the pipeline,” according to the county’s quarterly report.
Municipalities throughout Westchester have taken steps to comply with the housing settlement, although some towns and cities have been less eager to comply than others.
Somers opened The Mews at Baldwin Place, a 72-unit affordable-housing project for senior citizens, in November. That complex features two buildings on a five-acre site. When it opened, The Mews had been fully rented out, and residents praised the development.
“I am thrilled! It’s gorgeous. The way it’s situated, and the landscaping – beautiful,” said tenant Lenora Martinez.
Some municipalities, including Eastchester and Mount Pleasant, have not shared plans for affordable housing with county officials. Mount Pleasant officials told The Daily Voice that they have no intention of coming up with a plan until all the legal issues involving the settlement have been resolved.
The majority of communities are working to develop potential affordable-housing units but have not completed projects. Several communities have passed a version of the county's model ordinance, which requires at least 10 percent of all new housing developments to be designed as affordable. These communities include Bedford, Irvington, New Castle, Ossining, Rye Brook, Scarsdale, Tarryown and Yorktown.
A 65-unit affordable-housing complex has just been approved in North Salem, despite a number of concerns residents expressed with the project during Planning Board meetings. Residents’ concerns have also plagued a proposed four-story, 36-unit building at 54 Hunts Place in Chappaqua. Residents say the project is too large for the downtown area.
County legislators have granted approval to Briarcliff Manor to use 445 North State Road for affordable housing. Village Manager Philip Zegarelli said the move was “a homerun” for Briarcliff Manor.
“This thing has been going on for a while and it was a sincere effort on everyone’s part to get this done,” he said. “To us, this is a great use of the property and is in keeping with the layout of that part of the village.”
Meanwhile, county officials and the federal monitor have gone to court once again over the county’s compliance with the settlement. County officials say a comprehensive legal analysis shows local zoning practices are not exclusionary and, because of that, they're refusing to provide strategies to combat it. James Johnson, the federal monitor in charge of overseeing the settlement, says the county is failing to meet deadlines for requested documents.
A federal judge has ordered county officials to comply with a new procedure in responding to documents that is supposed to speed things up.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who lives in Mount Pleasant which has no plans to build any affordable housing, says the county has complied with Johnson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He disputes the idea that the county's zoning is exclusionary.
“It is hard to see how our zoning is exclusionary if we are ahead of schedule when it comes to actually building the housing,” Astorino said in a statement.
This is the first part of a series on the Westchester Housing Settlement. Check back tomorrow for information about affordable housing in your community.