What is Affordable Housing?

For a home to be affordable, it must cost no more than 30% of the monthly household income for rent (mortgage/taxes) and utilities. “Affordable” housing refers to housing that is guaranteed to remain affordable for a period of time to families who qualify under specific income guidelines.

Housing in Westchester County is among the most expensive in the nation.  Probably someone you know is struggling under the escalating costs of housing in every community in Westchester.

Several factors combine to create this housing crisis:

  • increases in family incomes have not kept pace with housing costs.  (Most families who have lived in Westchester for more than 15 years, would not be able to afford to purchase their own home today)

  • over 40,000 rental units vanished in the 1980’s when many buildings were converted to cooperatives and condominiums or were converted back to single-family homes

  • the amount of land suitable for affordable housing has become scarce

  • land values have continued to rise

  • housing production is not meeting demand

  • the amount of financing for infrastructure and related costs, particularly from federal sources, has dropped significantly in the last 15 years

  • the complexity of land use regulations increased between 1970 and 1990, diminishing developers ability to package and produce lower cost housing

As of the third quarter of 2003, the median income for a family of four in Westchester County was $90,100.  The median cost of a home (for all housing types was $360,000, requiring an income of $145,000 to purchase.  This discrepancy between median income and median home price creates an “affordability gap” of $54,900 for the average Westchester family.

Contemporary affordable housing works for the community
Most people haven’t had an opportunity to find out about contemporary affordable housing.  Today’s affordable housing provides a stepping stone for young families, a smaller, more manageable home for seniors, or creates housing for the county’s workforce.  Workforce housing focuses on providing homes for public employees, public safety volunteers and employees of small and large business in the County.  Affordable workforce housing helps businesses remain in the county and helps public employees live closer to their jobs.  Contemporary affordable housing can be ownership or rental, a two family house, accessory apartment, townhouses or typical market-rate apartment units.  Many developments have won design awards.  You may live near an affordable housing development and not know it!

These 10 townhouses with 10 attached rental apartments restored a blighted neighborhood in New Rochelle with attractive architecture and housing for 20 families and rental income for 10 families.

Contemporary affordable housing is designed to fit with the character of the neighborhood, uses high-quality construction and professional management

Affordable housing developments meet local building standards and design requirements. Professional management includes stringent tenant selection and quick responses to maintenance requests.

For every 100 new units of affordable housing construction, eighty jobs are created and more than $10 million is generated in construction wages, sales taxes on building materials, development fees and property taxes.”

Housing Trust Fund Project, Economic Benefits of Housing Trust Funds

An effective private/public partnership with local government

Affordable housing is developed by private developers, often non-profits, many of which are local community or faith based organizations, using a combination of rental income, private financing, income from sales and government subsidies.  Other affordable housing is developed by the private sector through inclusionary zoning.  Funding and technical assistance are also available from private lenders and the sale of ownership units.  Westchester has created a “Housing Implementation Fund” and a “New Homes Land Acquisition Fund” to assist with the development of affordable housing in the County. Over the past decade, many communities in Westchester have shown that partnerships among local government, non-profit housing developers, community leaders and private financial institutions can create attractive, successful affordable housing developments that not only serve residents, but are an asset to the broader community

This renovated house in the Town of North Salem has three apartments for town residents needing affordable housing

People earning good incomes, even $65,000 to $70,000, can’t find housing in Westchester.  Simple arithmetic says you cannot spend 100% of your income on housing.   We need housing our working families can afford. Good people–good working families–are caught in the squeeze.  If we don’t find a way to house them, we will lose them and the businesses where they work.

Jane Perkinson, White Plains SHORE, Inc.

In addition to helping residents, contemporary affordable housing benefits the wider community in significant ways:

  • Providing housing for the local workforce

  • Revitalizing distressed areas

  • Directing economic benefits to the local community, such as increased jobs and sales taxes

  • Reducing long distance commuter traffic and improving air quality

  • Promoting economic integration while building community

  • A volunteer workforce (fire and emergency) who live in the community

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