As the dispute concerning a 2009 affordable housing settlement in Westchester County continues, a Congresswoman and the governor have come up with a plan to allot federal money to local communities.
Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, represents part of Westchester.
“This morning Governor Cuomo and I announced a creative solution that will enable communities and non-profits to apply to the state for 2015 grants,” says Lowey. “As a result of our plan $5 million will be directed to local economic development projects in Westchester.”
That’s $5 million in affordable housing, community development, and emergency shelter grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Several Westchester communities have not received such HUD grants, or Community Development Block Grants, since 2011, losing access to some $22 million. Again, Lowey.
“The past money is gone.”
HUD reallocated grants from three programs that should have gone to a consortium of Westchester local governments and non-profits. That’s because the county was ineligible to receive funding as a result of its non-compliance with the housing settlement, essentially a standoff between Republican County Executive Rob Astorino and HUD. The consortium disbanded at the end of 2014.
As part of the new arrangement, New York State Homes and Community Renewal will distribute about $3.3 million in Westchester County CDBG funds through a competitive application. The funding will be made available only to initiatives located in the areas formerly served by the Westchester County Consortium. More than $600,000 will be available from Emergency Shelter Grants and more than $900,000 will be available for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. Here’s Lowey.
“The plan that the governor and I created will allow communities that were previously under the consortium to competitively apply to the state for funds and the state will direct approximately $5 million to Westchester projects in 2015,” says Lowey.
Democrat Michael Kaplowitz is chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
“The headline is: Big win for Westchester communities. Big win for taxpayers.”
Catherine Borgia, also a Democrat, is majority leader of the Board of Legislators. She agrees it is a big win for Westchester communities.
“We thought that when the Administration dissolved the consortium by which most municipalities apply for CDBG money that this money was going to be completely lost,” says Borgia. “So we’re very pleased because we know that Westchester municipalities, as a former town supervisor of Ossining, I know that local municipalities really rely on this for taxpayer relief, for economic development, for infrastructure improvements.”
Republican John Testa is Board of Legislators minority leader.
“We know that the county executive’s office has been asking for this for a couple years now, so it’s nice that it’s finally happened and we’re glad to see it,” says Testa. “Except as with the settlement we find out that the devil is really in the details. We don’t know what the requirements will be to qualify for this funding. We don’t know if the municipalities will be gun-shy as this settlement has proven to a be a little bit different than we thought it was going to be at the beginning so we don’t know if the municipalities will participate the way we hope. And we hope it all works out.”
He says he is disappointed the lost funds were not restored. The housing settlement, reached under then-Democratic County Executive Andrew Spano and HUD, is not affected and Kaplowitz says negotiations continue over the terms.