by Alexander Roberts
After more than a decade of battles over size and design, Tarrytown’s affordable housing project at 21 Wildey Street is well on its way to projected completion by November 30. A new controversy, however, has arisen over which ordinance the village will follow to determine who may apply for the 12 new apartments.
The development of the former village hall was authorized under the old “Moderate Income” housing ordinance, which set the “affordability index” based upon 125% of the median income of all Tarrytown paid workers. Marketing also provided preferences in tenant selection for village employees, fire and ambulance corps members, heads of households or their spouses 62+ living in the village for at least five years, and heads of household or their spouses under 30 who have lived in the village for at least 10 years.
But in 2009, Westchester County was sued by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development for failing to “affirmatively further fair housing” in its use of federal funds. The consent decree resulted in the county promoting a more restrictive “Model Ordinance” that adopted the lower household income maximum of 60% of Area Median Income, which is set by the county ($53,520 for two people), and banned all tenant selection preferences. In 2012, Tarrytown adopted the new “Affordable Housing” model ordinance.
While it was understood that the village would follow the old moderate income guidelines on the Wildey Street project, so much time has passed that the Tarrytown Board of Trustees recently asked its attorneys, Steve Silverberg and Kathy Zalantis, for an opinion. The new code prescribes that the old rules should only apply to “affordable housing constructed prior to 2011.”
“I’m inclined to think we will have to abide by the new provisions,” said Tarrytown Village Administrator Richard Slingerland.
Asked by this reporter for comment, an attorney for the developer, National Resources, said the firm was unaware of the issue, and fired off a letter to the village on July 12, when the Board of Trustees was originally scheduled to hear the opinion of its counsel.
In his letter, attorney Daniel Pennessi reminded the village that its Memorandum of Understanding dated 2006 states, “Contractor [shall] develop twelve (12) units of moderate-income housing on the Existing Village Hall Site…in accordance with the parameters and criteria established by the Village for moderate income housing, which shall include preferences for Village residents (emphasis added).” Therefore, according to the Greenwich, Connecticut developer, the new affordable housing ordinance does not apply.
The new ordinance would set much lower income limits to qualify tenants, and substantially reduce rents at the building. In banning preferences, it require marketing “in accordance with the requirements, policies and protocols established in the Westchester County Fair and Affordable Housing Affirmative Marketing Plan so as to ensure outreach to racially and ethnically diverse households.”
Complicating the issue is that the 2006 memorandum with the developer contemplates a “for-sale” project, in which the condominiums were to be sold at “full market value,” with “unrestricted marketing.” It does not mention a rental project.
Until the issue of whether the units will go under the old law or new, Tarrytown cannot consider applications from prospective tenants.
The Board of Trustees may try to sort this out at its work session on August 16th.