On May 3, the Town Board held a public hearing on abolishing Yorktown’s affordable housing set-aside law, which requires new developments of eight units or more to include 10 percent or more of the units as affordable. I feel compelled to respond to some things that were said by our municipal officials.
Supervisor Grace asserted that the law was illegal. When faced with the fact that 19 other municipalities in Westchester have set-aside laws, including New Castle, Scarsdale, Rye Brook, Irvington, Bedford, Pound Ridge and North Salem, the response was to describe these towns as lemmings running over a cliff.
It also didn’t seem to matter that set-aside laws exist all around the country, including elsewhere in New York State, and that the county’s model law was approved by the county attorney, the Justice Department, the court-appointed monitor, and was part of a settlement so-ordered by a judge. Nor did it seem to matter that a California set-aside was recently appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and upheld at every level.
Grace also cited the law’s clear statement that the town doesn’t guarantee the resale price of affordable units and that buyers assume the risks of ownership as proof that the law “traps” buyers of affordable units. Well, every buyer, whether of a market-rate home or an affordable unit, assumes the risks inherent in the housing market. Frankly, this language is in the law because some Town Board members in the early 1990s believed they were obligated to subsidize re-sales of affordable units. That was not the case then and is not the case now.
Councilman Bernard also took a shot at Yorktown’s existing affordable housing, claiming that it was a failure because owners of Yorktown’s few affordable homes have stayed in them for 20-plus years. That’s what home ownership is about. Those units would sell today for more than they were purchased for. People remain in them because they are living in decent affordable housing in a great community to live in, and affordable housing is a scarce commodity. I consider that a success story.