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Astorino: County Ahead of HUD Settlement Schedule

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – With Westchester and the federal government still at a standstill over the 2009 housing settlement , County Executive Robert Astorino touted the progress of his Republican administration Monday, saying Westchester remains almost a year ahead of schedule in meeting the agreement's time benchmarks.

Westchester entered 2012 with federal approval for 206 affordable housing units, financing for 182 of these homes and building permits for 108 of the units. According to Astorino, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) only required the county to have financing for 100 units and building permits for 50 homes by the end of 2011.

Last week, the Housing Action Council organized a lottery for 18 one-bedroom town homes in Rye, which will sell for $150,000 and $165,000. Lotteries for other housing that fulfills the agreement were conducted for a three-family house in Pelham, one home in Pleasantville, and 92 apartment units in Montrose. Families that earn 50 to 60 percent of the surrounding area’s median income will be eligible to rent the Montrose units for $870 to $1,270 a month.

“These are important accomplishments and clearly show that the county is more than meeting its obligations under the 2009 housing agreement,” Astorino said in a press release. “Our progress is the result of working cooperatively with our local communities and experienced developers.”

The regional HUD press representative didn’t immediately return a voicemail or email requesting a comment on whether the federal government agrees with Astorino’s assessment of Westchester’s progress.

After the Anti-Discrimination Center filed a lawsuit accusing Westchester of claiming it studied race and affordable housing when accepting federal grants without actually performing the studies, the federal government got involved. A 2009 agreement between HUD and Westchester requires the county to spend $51.6 million building 750 units of affordable housing in 31 predominately white communities by the summer of 2016.

Westchester is required to market the homes to minority families living outside of the county, however, all 750 units may be rented to families who meet certain income limits regardless of their race or ethnicity. The county has launched a Homeseeker web section to help explain requirements for settlement developments, describe home listings, and showcase the educational opportunities and transportation surrounding the units.

Meanwhile, Astorino continues to blame the stalemate on what he views as HUD’s expansions of the settlement.

“Westchester is a diverse, welcoming community and I will vigorously defend the rights of people to live in any community of their choosing. But, the settlement applies equally to all the parties, which means HUD can’t make up its own rules,” he said in a statement.

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