BCW Board Member and New Rochelle Commissioner of Development Luiz Aragon addresses congressional subcommittee on transit-oriented development.
New Rochelle was selected as the only municipality in the country to participate in the session because of its record in transit-oriented development. More than 30 projects are under construction or in development in the core of the city’s downtown.
The bill, H.R. 4307 has been endorsed by a dozen industry and consumer groups including the National Association of Home Builders, the Mortgage Bankers Association, Habitat for Humanity, the Regional Plan Association and Up for Growth Action.
“They wanted to hear from us and want to use what happened here in New Rochelle as an example of what can happen across the country,” Aragon told the Westchester Business Journal. “In partnership with elected officials and the community we were able to put together a plan where we did attract investment and it was not only a plan that made sense but was financially feasible for the development sector.”
The proposed legislation would impact the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program that funds transit projects such as rail and bus rapid transit through the Capital Investments Program. It would require housing feasibility assessments to be made in order to determine how and where housing units could be built near new transit stops. It also would make funding more likely if a local community changes its land-use policies to make it easier to build affordable housing as well as market-rate units.
Aragon pointed out that New Rochelle requires 10% of the units in proposed projects be in the affordable category and, of the 6,300 new dwelling units approved, 800 are affordable with the city exceeding its 10% minimum.
Also important in bringing transit-oriented development to New Rochelle was assuring developers that their projects could receive timely approvals, in a matter of months compared with the year or two or longer it might take in other communities, he said.
Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester who serves as a member of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (REDC), said New Rochelle has been a leader in transit-oriented development.
“Mayor Noam Bramson and Luis Aragon have written the book on streamlining development by spelling out the type of development the city is seeking,’’ said Gordon.
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