Affordable Housing Coming to Irvington, Westchester County Ordered by Federal Government

On August 10, 2009, the United States District Court Southern District of New York and the United States of America Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York filed a "Stipulation and Order of Settlement and Dismissal." The Defendant was Westchester County.

The thirty-eight page document details what the County will have to do; they have until September 25th to approve or reject the settlement. It appears that the United States Government is not in the mood to bargain on the points stipulated.

At the crux of the settlement is a new phrase, "Affirmatively Furthers Fair Housing" or AFFH which will translate to the building of 750 affordable housing units within a seven year period. Of those, 630 AFFH units will be built in communities that according to the 2000 Census had a "single race African-American only" of less than 3% and a Hispanic population less than 7%. The Village of Irvington has an even lower percentage of African Americans and Hispanics as residents.

Irvington officials are in a "wait and see" holding pattern while Westchester County figures out how this program is to be implemented and where. The Village is open to receiving County funds for the building of affordable housing units; however, there is a paucity of land available and Irvington is fairly well built out at the present. Creativity will be a major component in the County’s dealing with Villages who have to build affordable housing, and a fair amount of give and take will have to accompany all coordination.

At present, Irvington has 26 units of affordable housing in two housing complexes. The units are specific to income and family size and currently there is a waiting list of over seventy names for these units.

The United States Government, with input from Westchester County, will select a "Monitor" and this individual will have the authority to review all County programs and ensure that the County is in compliance with the court ruling. Should they arise, the "Monitor" will also have the authority to resolve any disputes between the Government and the County.

A timetable for Westchester County’s implementation of affordable housing will start in 2011 when 100 units (with financing in place) will begin. By 2016 all 750 units (with financing in place) will have to be achieved. If the County fails to comply with the benchmark dates, it could pay $30,000 for the first month and $60,000 a month thereafter for the development of affordable housing.

Regardless of the dialogue between Westchester County and the Federal Government or Westchester County and the villages that will be affected by this court settlement, one thing is certain. The Village of Irvington and other villages with similar populations, will see affordable housing being built within their boundaries. How many units, where they will be placed and their possible affects on services and school districts remain uncertain.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento