Will a proposed settlement between the federal government and Westchester County over affordable housing impact Larchmont? “I think we have to wait and see exactly how the legislature handles it,” said Larchmont Deputy Mayor Marlene Kolbert. “We know the thrust, but not the practical matters.”
The “thrust” is that Westchester County Executive Andy Spano has agreed to build, within 7 years, 750 new affordable housing units, 630 of which should be in communities with an African-American population of less than 3% and a Hispanic population of less than 7%.
According to data from the 2000 Census, the Village of Larchmont was 94% white; 1% African-American and 4% Hispanic.
The agreement must still be approved by the Westchester County Board of Legislators by September 25, or, according to an August 13 release from that board, it “shall be null and void and all parties would proceed to trial.”
County and Village Committed to Affordable Housing
Mr. Spano asserts that Westchester County has “always been committed to fair and affordable housing,” but he went along with the settlement rather than lose millions in federal funding or pay as much as $50 million to the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York, which initiated the law suit. Mr. Spano cited the 1,704 units of affordable housing Westchester helped develop in the last decade.
In Larchmont, specifically, Westchester provided a $2.55 million “legacy grant” to renovate Flint Park in return for the village pursuing “the development and implementation” of 35 units of “work force housing” by December 31, 2012. (See: Board Approves IMA With Westchester Paving Way for $2.55M Legacy Grant.)
The settlement, as proposed, would have no impact on the legacy grant agreement, according to Donna Greene, spokesperson for Westchester County.
The Larchmont Village Board continues to voice support for affordable housing in Larchmont, whether or not it is required by Westchester County or the federal government. Nevertheless, Larchmont Village has yet to acquire a single new unit of affordable housing. And there is no development on the horizon.
So Why No New Affordable Housing?
There was one 54-unit apartment complex with five “work force housing” apartments proposed by Esposito Builders for two lots at 2101 Palmer Avenue and 77 North Avenue. (See: VOL Planning Board Vote Supports Palmer Apartment Project.) The project survived local opposition and a grueling multi-year permitting process, but “we have been unable to obtain conventional financing,” Richard Esposito told the Gazette this week. Attempts to sell the property – last listed at $4,335,000 – have been unsuccessful.
“The banks are not lending money,” Mr. Esposito said.
Another possibility previously under discussion by the Larchmont Village Board was allowing construction of apartments – including some affordable units – over Parking Lot #1 at the train station. But interest from developers has dried up in the current economy.
What’s on the Horizon?
Mr. Spano said requiring affordable housing in communities with little or no minority population represents “a historic shift of philosophy.” Rob Astorino, running against Mr. Spano for Westchester County executive, predicts “Big Brother is about to descend on Westchester towns and villages” and that towns and villages “may be forced to build housing wherever the federal government says it should be built.”
But in Mamaroneck Town, Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe and the board were reserving judgment. (See: Westchester County Affordable Housing Agreement with Anti-Discrimination Center)
Similarly, Ms. Kolbert suggested, “I think we have to wait and see exactly how the [Westchester] legislature handles it.”