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Grace: Yorktown's Affordable Housing Law More Regulatory Folly

The following letter was written in its entirety by former attorney for the town of Yorktown and current candidate for Yorktown Supervisor, Michael Grace.

As if we needed further proof that the current Town’s Administration is out of touch with reality here comes their proposed law seeking to mandate affordable housing extortions for all future residential developments seeking approval before the town.  The law which is conveniently scheduled for public hearing after the Republican and Conservative party primaries,  mandates either a financial contribution and/or the construction of “Affordable Housing Units” (AHUs) for all future residential developments.  A builder of market rate housing, under the law, must create or contribute toward the construction of AHUs.  As a forced contribution the law exacts a substantial financial payment of tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars from the builder/land owner wishing to construct residential housing.  This “contribution” is a building tax, unfairly extracted from a discrete group of land owners and redistributed to those whom the law qualifies as worthy of another’s hard earned money. It is an unauthorized and illegal tax.

But it gets worse. Unfortunately even for the recipient of the AHU contribution the benefit conferred is a ruse.  Under the law and in order to perpetuate “affordability” the Yorktown law prohibits the buyer of an AHU from capturing any wealth that the market generates over time, i.e. the appreciation of the value of the unit.  Most of us understand that our homes are our major source of accumulated wealth over time, as the long term trend (present conditions being an exception) is that the values of our homes increase.  The “equity” in our homes is often one’s retirement funds.  The Yorktown law doesn’t allow the owner to keep the equity created over time!  Same is recaptured by deed restrictions written in on the initial sale in order to ensure “affordability” on resale.  The result is that the buyer never reaps the financial benefit of home ownership.  Buyer beware you don’t own the AHU you’ve bought; you are renting it with the added burden of paying property taxes during your tenure as “owner.”  The Yorktown law also provides for the creation of an Affordable Housing Board” (more unfunded bureaucracy) which must approve any proposed improvement to the home to ensure the improvement doesn’t impact affordability on resale.  The law sets new lows in governmental redistribution of wealth schemes.  Unfairly taking thousands of dollars from one group of people and conferring specious wealth on another group.  Nobody wins.

As a consequence of the law hundreds of thousands of dollars will be removed from the local economy.  The hardest to be hit bring those who make a living in the various building trades or in real estate.

If the real interest of the town is to make living here affordable it should stop spending thousands of dollars in legal fees and time to draft up ridiculous redistribution of wealth schemes.  Instead it should press the County to allocate the funds set aside for affordable housing as a result of the Anti-Discrimination League’s lawsuit to fund the construction of infrastructure, i.e. sewer capacity, thereby giving present homeowners tax relief.  The County should use some of the committed funds to pay for sewer diversion which will bring sewers to those who have been paying for them without having service and open the possibility of new commercial development in the business districts. Even a modest expansion of the commercial tax base would lower the residential property owner’s tax burdens.  Yorktown doesn’t need AHUs it needs tax relief.  Perhaps with new leadership locally and on the County level tax relief will become a reality and will no longer be an empty campaign promise.

As a footnote presently there are 80 plus homes on the market in Yorktown selling for 400,000.00 or less; 60 for 350,000.00 or less and 35 for 300,000.00 or less. The issue is not “affordability” in regard to purchase price; it is the tax burden that is unaffordable.  Yorktown doesn’t need laws the consequences of which is to exact an illegal tax on the building industry, create additional bureaucracy, and further burden the local economy.

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