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Monitor in Fair Housing Settlement Studies Zoning Data
WESTCHESTER'S ANALYSIS FOUND TO BE INADEQUATE
After at least four separate submissions of information on zoning in Westchester over the past year, the monitor overseeing the 2009 fair housing settlement and his team of experts are analyzing the data and conducting their own research to determine if any zoning in the county excludes blacks and Hispanics.The county’s initial analysis, submitted in late February 2012, looked at the 31 largely-white communities targeted under the settlement and found no intentional or unintentional exclusionary zoning but both monitor James Johnson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development found it to be inadequate. Throughout the following months the monitor asked for more information, receiving the final submissions in November.
“The County’s submission did not reflect the rigor of analysis required to reach a reasoned conclusion on the impact of restrictive zoning practices; and second, the County failed to state a clear strategy to overcome any municipal exclusionary zoning practices,” Johnson said of the initial submission in a report to the court filed last week.
County Executive Rob Astorino has criticized the government for insisting he leave open the possibility of suing municipalities, though the county has recently said a lawsuit would be a last resort.
Johnson’s team will report publicly on its assessment of the county’s zoning ordinances after the municipalities have a chance to comment, he said in the report.
Along with a requirement that the county build 750 units of affordable housing in the 31 communities, the zoning analysis is a key part of the settlement. The county is required to dismantle obstacles that prevent families from choosing where they want to live. And if a municipality’s zoning is exclusionary, the county is required by the settlement to pressure it to change by withholding funding or suing if necessary.
Municipalities have an obligation under a line of state housing cases starting with Berenson v. New Castle to provide their share of the region’s need for multifamily housing, said Richard Hyman, a consultant and former adviser to the county’s Housing Opportunity Commission.
“A lot of zoning ordinances aren’t set up to meet that standard and that’s why this zoning analysis is important,” he said.
The county has provided the monitor with information on the percentage of land zoned for mulitfamily housing in each municipality and the amount that could still be developed. Many communities show only an acre or two of land available for multifamily development without zoning changes or special permits. Some, including North Salem, Somers and Yorktown, have dozens of developable acres available, according to the analysis. The county also updated the monitor on the number of affordable housing units each town has built under pre-existing county targets.
The monitor’s report and most of the zoning submissions are available at www.westchesterhousingmonitor.org under recent updates.
This Article is from;
Written by Elizabeth Ganga
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