Westchester County Executive George Latimer this week released a comprehensive Housing Needs Assessment, which looks at the county’s history of housing policies, provides findings on a wide variety of demographic, housing and affordability issues, and provides 12 recommendations, including “best practices” from across the country, among other detailed findings.
“Affordable housing is a major contributing factor to a balanced and well-functioning county and in turn, its communities and neighborhoods,” Latimer said. “To that end, Westchester County undertook this Housing Needs Assessment to establish a data-based foundation for the creation and preservation of affordable housing in Westchester County.”
Read the full report: www.westchestergov.com/housing-needs-assessment
According to the report, 11,703 new affordable housing units need to be built to meet demand in Westchester County. Moreover, more than 41% of the households in Westchester pay more than half of their income toward housing costs.
The Business Council of Westchester President and CEO Dr. Marsha Gordon said: “As we look to recruit and retain Westchester’s future workforce, we need all levels of government to focus on how we can create future workforce housing so that employees can not only work in Westchester but also can live here and raise their families.”
To complete the Assessment, Pattern for Progress used a standard statistical approach viewing Westchester County as a whole and with a separate look at the municipalities. Additional research and analysis was conducted through plans and reports, but also through interviews with stakeholders and several public forums.
• There are 345,885 housing units in Westchester; 81 percent of the housing units in the county were built before 1979;
• The City of Yonkers has the most housing units with 82,562; the Village of Buchanan has the fewest with only 864;
• 62 percent of the County’s units are ownership – slightly lower than the 63 percent national average; while 38 percent are rental units;
• There are 2,476 Public Housing Units and 13,092 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers units;
• There are 34,221 ETPA (Emergency Tenant Protection Act) units in 1,773 buildings in the county;
• 141,570 households (41.4 percent of the total number in the county) are living in homes and apartments that are paying more than 50 percent of their income toward their housing costs;
• There is a significant shortage of housing for extremely low-income renters, people with disabilities, seniors, large families and the homeless; In particular, families and individuals who face intellectual and developmental disabilities, who need specialized housing with services, are not being adequately served;
• There are 89,839 people living in poverty in Westchester (9.4 percent of the total population);
• The greatest growth in population is in the 85 and over cohort (e.g. the Towns of Lewisboro and Pound Ridge with 232 percent and 202 percent increases respectively), between 2000 and 2017, demonstrating the need for senior housing;
• The combined population of the five largest cities represent 46 percent of the total population in the county;
• The 30-44 age cohort shows decline, which may mean there aren’t enough affordable housing options for young families;
• More people commute into Westchester to work than those who live and work in the county; the majority of commuters (58 percent) drive alone to work;
In response to the data found and the analysis conducted, this Assessment includes 12 Recommendations for the County to consider for implementation to start to address the identified need. Many of these recommendations are included in the Latimer’ proposed 2020 budget.
The 12 Recommendations are:
1. Affordable Housing Education Workshop Series: Contract with an organization with a focus on housing policy, education, technical assistance and municipal engagement to establish a series of workshops to facilitate educational sessions regarding affordable housing.
2. Increase the Community Based Organization Capacity: Establish an annual funding allocation to cover the tuition associated with professional certification programs in housing and community development through NeighborWorks America®.
3. Housing Inventory and Tracking System: Conduct a bi-annual update of the existing affordable housing inventory – utilizing the existing housing inventory database. Establish a permanent tracking and monitoring system of all housing developments over 10 units. Share with economic development entities and Industrial Development Agencies to ensure housing and wages are in alignment.
4. Community Land Trust: Create a countywide community land trust and focus on capturing housing headed into foreclosure as an eviction prevention strategy, but keeping it flexible to address a multitude of development concerns.
5. Municipal Ordinances: Design a formal program to provide technical assistance to municipalities to draft model ordinances for example, Accessory Dwelling Units, specifically targeted for affordable housing.
6. Adaptive Reuse of Under-Utilized Property: Design a property disposition program for the adaptive re-use of land and buildings, including older office park campuses, for the purpose of developing new affordable housing.
7. Housing Compact between County and Municipalities: Gather support from the local businesses, municipalities and community based organizations to work together to meet the needs of affordable housing in the County.
8. Neighborhood Revitalization Opportunities: Utilize the Affordable Housing Needs Assessment data in addition to existing web-based systems to explore the specific needs of individual neighborhoods and establish a data rich system to analyze community conditions.
9. Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Services: Expand existing eviction and foreclosure prevention programs.
10. Employer Assisted Housing Program: Establish an Employer Assisted Housing program by creating public-private partnerships with major employers, hospitals, county staff and large-scale not-for-profit housing providers and healthcare agencies.
11. Pre-development and Preservation Options: Create and provide funding for not-for-profit housing agencies for pre-development costs associated with the construction and preservation of affordable housing.
12. Funding Opportunities: Offers a couple of examples of options to provide a source of funding to undertake the recommendations above and increase the funding stream for the County’s affordable housing programs.