Westchester County continues to avoid compliance with the County’s settlement agreement to produce 750 units of affordable housing in communities with low minority population. Please see Monday’s New York Times editorial, Westchester Loses Again on Fair Housing. It is disappointing to see the County’s leadership opposing affordable housing, while placing at risk federal funding for housing and other needed projects.
The New York Times: Westchester Loses Again on Fair Housing
Next Thursday, the New York City Zoning Resolution turns 50 years old. As zoning nerds the world over take a minute to acknowledge this milestone, we must not forget to turn our attention to the next 50 years and start considering specific actions that will encourage the progress of this great city and preserve its competitive advantage. It is time to think big…literally.
While planning (and zoning, for that matter) doesn’t happen in a vacuum, as we look at the next 50 years, architects of the City’s planning and zoning policies should take three words into consideration – no, not location location location. Urban planning technocrats, elected officials, neighborhood groups, and all other stakeholders should be guided by the following three words: (more…)
New Jersey’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) has been officially abolished, with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration announcing that affordable housing oversight has been transferred to another department of the state government. Christie issued a reorganization plan in June to eliminate the 12-member housing board and switch its duties to the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”).
The reorganization was criticized by Kevin Walsh, associate director of the Fair Share Housing Center, who said “the governor is attempting to consolidate power so he can allow municipalities where the wealthiest New Jerseyans live keep out working folks.” According to the governor, the goal of the re-organization plan is to address the needs of both the providers and beneficiaries of affordable housing in New Jersey by organizing all programs within a single regulatory body.
According to the Office of the DCA Commissioner, the Commissioner will support the creation of affordable housing by increasing regulatory flexibility and efficiency and immediately implementing interim streamlined protocols regarding the following: review of requests for agency action, including waiver and motion requests; review and approval of spending plans; review and approval of development fee ordinances; approval of Administrative Agents and Municipal Housing Liaisons; approval of affordable housing operating manuals; and public noticing procedures. The Commissioner’s interim procedures, supposedly will help foster predictability and consistency for municipalities, developers and housing advocates, curb procedural inefficiencies that result in unreasonable delays and costs to municipalities and the private sector, while promoting the availability of affordable housing throughout the State. The Commissioner will propose permanent procedures pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act.
Because there was previous confusion/contention regarding how to determine a municipalities “fair share” of existing and future affordable housing need, and how to meet that need, it seems that the NJ courts will yet again be asked to intervene in the creation of affordable housing. It has been 36 years since the first Mt. Laurel decision (Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Township of Mount Laurel, 67 N.J. 151 (1975); how many more years will it take to resolve?
HUD and Westchester County continue to disagree regarding the implementation of the settlement agreement to produce 750 units of affordable housing in communities with low minority population representation. The federal monitor is reviewing the situation and will issue a determination.
Please see the recent response by HUD Public Affairs to Wall Street Journal article (“Why the War of Words?”). Also see a Journal News editorial critical of Westchester County’s failure to comply with agreed to settlement (“A Journal News editorial: Housing foes embrace politics, shun history“).
Similar to the Mt. Laurel decisions, it seems it will take considerable more time to provide affordable housing.
The Council of Affordable Housing (COAH) is the State agency responsible for establishing and monitoring municipal affordable housing obligations in New Jersey. COAH resulted from the Fair Housing Act of 1985 in response to a series of New Jersey Supreme Court cases known as the Mount Laurel decisions. In those decisions, the Supreme Court established a constitutional obligation for each of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities to establish a realistic opportunity for the provision of affordable housing obligations, generally through land use and zoning powers. New COAH Rules regarding the creation of affordable housing in New Jersey are due March 8, 2011.
In the latest set of COAH rules (known as the Third Round Rules), the organization identified a need for 115,000 affordable units statewide over 20 years between 1999 and 2018, or about 5,750 units annually. According to these rules, for every five units of housing built, one of the units must be affordable. A municipality is only responsible for building affordable housing when market rate housing and commercial development is proposed–the concept is when growth occurs, affordable housing should be built as part of that growth. In 2010, NJ added 23,000 homes and 49.6 million square feet of non-residential construction. This is viewed as an opportunity for affordable housing planning.
COAH is a little known organization, but it’s one you should know about (especially with new rules right around the corner). (more…)
More than a year after Westchester County settled a federal lawsuit with a promise to create 750 below-market-rate homes in wealthy, predominantly white communities, one element of a housing plan is progressing.
In August 2009, following a lawsuit filed by the Anti-Discrimination Center of New York, Westchester agreed to spend $52 million over seven years to build 750 units of fair and affordable housing in parts of Westchester with the least racial diversity.
Recently, the federal monitor, James E. Johnson, overseeing Westchester’s compliance with the settlement agreed to a model ordinance for local governments to follow. At the same time, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced that the County is a year ahead of schedule in reaching a benchmark in its landmark Affordable Housing Settlement. According to Astorino, Westchester has met its first benchmark under terms of the settlement between the County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). (more…)
Earlier today, the Municipal Arts Society, as part of their Summit for New York City, held a conference on Sustainable Housing.
The panelists each had a few minutes to share their experiences. (more…)
Picture it: City and State lawmakers racing against the sunsetting of the 421-a law to modify and extend the program.
While it may seem like only yesterday, this scene actually played out three long years ago; and is likely to reenact itself in a few short months.
At the end of 2007, the market was still trending upwards (the fall of Lehman in October 2008 was months away) and the overall tenor of the debate was not if the program’s benefits should be limited, but by how much. In the end, the program was extended for three years, the exclusion zone was expanded, negotiable certificates were essentially eliminated, and benefits were capped based on assessed value. (more…)
Westchester County’s desegregation plan is again found inadequate and the court appointed monitor has given the County until August 9th to remedy. The monitor questioned the County Executive’s “tone” in terms of providing leadership on this issue. If dissatisfied, the monitor does have the power, under the original HUD consent degree, to revise the County’s plan. (more…)
Last week, the monitor overseeing the settlement rejected the county’s affordable-housing plan, saying it was deficient on details, accountability and enforcement. Instead of specifying what the county would do to meet certain desegregation bench marks, Westchester merely restated the bench marks. The plan didn’t specify where and how the money would be spent. It had no “concrete time frame” for finding and buying properties to develop and was “unnecessarily vague on the whole.” (more…)