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Westchester Zoning Is Not Exclusionary, HUD Says

County Executive Rob Astorino with from left, Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg, Eastchester Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita, North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas and Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson.
County Executive Rob Astorino with from left, Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg, Eastchester Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita, North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas and Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- County Executive Rob Astorino announced Tuesday the Department of Housing and Urban Development did not find any exclusionary zoning in Westchester.

The announcement came after a prolonged legal battle with HUD following a 2009 settlement over discriminatory housing practices. As part of the settlement, the county was required to submit a review of obstacles to fair housing to HUD. HUD has rejected the previous 10 submissions by the county until Friday when it declared the county's report "acceptable."

Astorino said it was vindication for Westchester and a victory won on "facts and principles."

“From the beginning, my administration has been committed to meeting the county’s obligations under the settlement," Astorino said.  "But we also said that we were not going to be bullied by HUD into doing things that were not in the settlement. HUD had no reason to intrude into legitimate local zoning, and we stood firm on that. In the end, we were able to successfully defend the constitutional principle of home rule and meet the requirements of the settlement."

The county must still complete its outreach campaign on the benefits of diversity and affordable housing, which is underway. The county has already built more than the 750 units of affordable housing required by the settlement.

The county has spent about $30 million more than the $51.6 million required under the terms of the settlement, Astorino said. In addition, the county has leveraged more than $172 million in other public funding, putting total subsidies at $233 million and the average taxpayer subsidy per settlement unit at approximately $290,000, Astorino said.

Majority Leader Catherine Borgia said there is still a need for fair and affordable housing in Westchester.

“Strong economic development can only occur if people can afford to live here," Borgia said.This is why our caucus has continually advocated for a county-wide housing needs assessment to fully understand where our needs are and how we can best address them together.”

Chairman Mike Kaplowitz said today was a positive day for Westchester County but fighting HUD cost the county $24 million in Community Development Block Grants.

“As Chairman of the Board of Legislators, bipartisanship has been the hallmark of my relationship with the County Executive’s administration, as it has been with my colleagues," Kaplowitz said. "This issue highlighted our philosophical differences and drew some sharp elbows as we debated the best ways to work with HUD in implementing the settlement but at the end of this process, I and many of my colleagues have worked with the County Executive on the long and often arduous task of fulfilling our obligations under the settlement."

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