Friction Develops Between Builder and Village over Affordable Housing

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by Alexander Roberts

affordable housing wildey street housing construction back hoe buildiingIn a letter to the developer’s attorney, the Village of Tarrytown stated that the new apartments going up at the site of the old village hall will have to meet the County’s new Affordable Housing ordinance, and not the Moderate Income Housing law in force when the developer committed to the project. This sets up the potential for litigation between the developer, National Resources, and the village.

In 2006, when National Resources signed an agreement with Tarrytown to develop apartments at the old village hall, rents were determined under the village’s Moderate Income Housing ordinance, with rents established based on 125% of the median income of all paid village workers for the prior year, adjusted by family size. Under the new ordinance, developed as a result of the federal housing discrimination settlement between Westchester County and HUD, the maximum income limits were reduced to 60% of the county’s median income, or $53,520 for a two-person household.

In addition, while the old ordinance required that the 12 new apartments be offered first to 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, the new ordinance eliminated all such preferences.

Lower Incomes Mean Lower Rents

While the ruling by the Board of Trustees complies with new county guidelines, it will have the effect of significantly reducing the total rent generated by the building, and reducing the size of any projected mortgage, as well as the value of the property.  Prior to release of the board’s decision, the Greenwich-based developer wrote to the village that the original agreement should be honored. National Resources attorney Daniel Pennessi quoted the 2006 Memorandum of Agreement as stating, “Contractor [shall] develop twelve 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.”

In a letter dated September 8, 2017, Tarrytown Village Administrator Richard Slingerland replied to the developer’s argument, noting that the old Moderate Income Housing guidelines only apply to housing constructed prior to December 5, 2011, which was before National Resources began construction.

“Despite your reliance on documents that refer to ‘moderate income housing,’” said Slingerland, “you neglect to mention that all of 21 Wildey’s final land use approvals… Since your client is required to provide affordable housing and such affordable housing has not yet been completed and in fact, approvals for such construction were not even granted until after 2011, the standards set forth in Zoning Code § 130-130 [Affordable Housing] apply, and not the standards in Zoning Code § 305-130.1 [Moderate Income Housing].”

Tarrytown’s village administrator pointed out that a 2014 amendment executed by the developer and village “explicitly obligates your client to construct ‘affordable housing’ at 21 Wildey.”

Other differences between the two ordinances include leasing protocol. The new ordinance specifies that income eligible-households “shall be solicited” in accordance with Westchester County’s Fair and Affordable Housing Marketing Plan “so as to ensure outreach to racially and ethnically diverse households.”

A request for comment from National Resources and its owner, Joe Cotter, was not returned by press time.

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