by Alexander Roberts –
Westchester County has released its long-awaited Housing Needs Assessment, the most exhaustive analysis ever done in the county. While it found a need for 82,451 affordable housing units, the majority of those represent existing households that are paying more than they can afford. The number of new units needed was pegged at 11,703. In its more than 600 pages, the report breaks down housing needs and related demographic data for each one of the county’s 45 municipalities. Some of the distinguishing statistics of the rivertowns include:
- Dobbs Ferry and Tarrytown experienced significant declines in the number of people living in poverty. The number living in poverty in Tarrytown fell from 495 to 315 from 2000-2017. In Dobbs Ferry, the decline was from 555 to 298. In sharp contrast, the Village of Sleepy Hollow saw the number of people in poverty almost double, from 678 in 2000 to 1,911 in 2017—a percentage increase from 7.4% to 19.8%, and the highest increase in the county. During that same period, Dobbs Ferry’s poverty rate had the greatest decrease in the county at -2.7%.
- Irvington was the only village in the rivertowns that has lost population since 2000. The steepest decline took place between 2000 and 2010. Since then, it gained some of that back, cutting the loss to 0.6%.
- Across the county, the population of homeless students has more than doubled over the past 10 years with an increase of 105.3%, or 1,416 students. Tarrytown had the greatest increase in homeless students—up 629%, from 34 homeless students in 2007 to 248 in 2017.
- Sleepy Hollow had the largest number of renter-occupied housing units at 64.7%, and consequently the lowest rate of home ownership (35.3%). However, the village had by far the largest increase in population since 2000, up 10.6%. Since population gains typically follow new housing production, it’s no surprise that Irvington produced only 70 new homes since 2000, while Sleepy Hollow developed nearly 10 times that amount (660 units) at sites including the waterfront. Accelerating the trend, Sleepy Hollow will add another 1,177 units at the General Motors plant redevelopment, Edge on Hudson.
As expected, the affordable housing shortage continues to affect both homeowners and renters alike. The accompanying charts show just how many Westchester renters and homeowners meet the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition of being severely burdened, meaning they pay over 50% of their income for housing, as well as those paying more than 30% of their income, which HUD considers unaffordable. Together, these two categories represent 41.3% of total households in the county.
Alexander Roberts is Executive Director of Community Housing Innovations (CHI).