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Mayor Responds to Federal Housing Monitor Report
Release Date: September 09, 2014
Mayor Responds to Federal Housing Monitor Report
As you may recall, several years ago the prior County Executive and Board of Legislators entered into a settlement with the Federal Government regarding affordable housing. Late last night, the Federal Housing Monitor released an initial report titled “Monitor’s Huntington Analysis of Westchester County Municipal Zoning”. In the report, the monitor claims that “Rye Brook’s zoning code, taken together with census and housing distribution data, provides prima facie evidence of clustering in violation of Huntington.” He has invited comments from the six municipalities named in the initial report. I’d like to take a step back and address some of the facts with respect to this topic.
First of all, it should be noted that the Village of Rye Brook is not a party to the settlement between the Federal Government and the County of Westchester. Prior to the settlement, the village already had over 40 units of affordable housing.
However, since the county settlement was approved, Rye Brook has been very proactive to encourage more affordable housing. As a community, we have:
I also note that I am personally not aware of any formal application for affordable housing that has ever been denied in Rye Brook.
- Provided a report that identified approximately 20 locations throughout the village where additional affordable housing could potentially be located in Rye Brook.
- Adopted the vast majority of the recommended Model Ordinance that was determined to be acceptable to the monitor. This includes requirements that many new site plans and subdivisions also include affordable housing.
- Created a new Affordable Housing Floating Zone which allows affordable housing to be placed as of right in any zoning district. This floating zone (enacted in Dec 2011) may address concerns suggested in the Huntington analysis. The village received a planning award for this innovative zone, and has already applied it in two locations and I suspect will be used many times in the future.
- Discussed affordable housing in our newly adopted Rye Brook Comprehensive Plan, which will involve reviewing legislative items such as accessory apartments to encourage more affordable housing in Rye Brook.
Last year, the federal housing monitor issued a report indicating evidence that seven municipalities had exclusionary zoning on the basis of socioeconomic status because of barriers they erected against affordable housing development. The so-called “Category 3” municipalities were: Croton-on-Hudson, Harrison, Lewisboro, Mamaroneck, Ossining, Pelham Manor, and Pound Ridge. After further discussion with these municipalities, some of these communities have apparently come off this list. Rye Brook was not named in that report as having exclusionary zoning. On the contrary, we were listed as a being a municipality where other factors provide a rebuttal to the presumption that our ordinances are exclusionary.
In last night’s report, the Monitor states that “Rye Brook’s zoning code, taken together with census and housing distribution data, provides evidence of clustering in violation of Huntington and (the R-2F district) is an area which is clearly less desirable and could be considered stigmatizing”. Here, the Monitor is implying that our zoning code purposefully clusters minorities in certain less-desirable parts of the village. I wonder how the residents of this district feel about the monitor’s inflammatory statements. The fact is that this is an area where housing happens to be more affordable, is close to public transportation, and has the benefit of being adjacent to a shopping center which has made substantial investments to making itself a vibrant center of our community.
Furthermore, examining Rye Brook’s zoning using the “Huntington Analysis” is a questionable approach, given the huge disparities in size and population between the Town of Huntington, Long Island, and the Village of Rye Brook. The Town of Huntington is 137.1 square miles. Rye Brook is 3.5 square miles. Everywhere is local in Rye Brook. Huntington’s population (according to the 2010 census) is 203,264. Rye Brook’s population (also according to the 2010 census) is 9,347. Given the huge differences in size and population, how can the Huntington analysis be reasonably applied to a small village like Rye Brook?
That being said, Rye Brook has put together a task force to analyze and respond to last night’s monitor’s report. We will continue to work collegially with the County Executive’s office the County Legislature, and the federal monitor to eliminate any potential barriers to having affordable housing in Rye Brook.
In conclusion, we feel that we have been doing everything in our power to encourage affordable housing in Rye Brook. We are proud of what we have accomplished so far, given the small size of our village and population, and will continue to seek ways of promoting affordable housing in Rye Brook.
Mayor Paul S. Rosenberg