The following column was written by Yorktown Town CouncilmanTerrence Murphy.
When staring down the proverbial barrel of a gun the words, "It will work itself out," hardly come to mind. In last week's Northern Westchester Examiner article titled, "HUD Pulls Grant Funds from Westchester," these were the words used by County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz regarding the affordable housing disaster which is unfolding before our very eyes.
Two years ago Mike Kaplowitz cast the decisive vote in support of the affordable housing settlement despite every warning sign and siren. Now, as many feared and predicted, the price tag has nearly doubled with only one source of revenue in sight - us the taxpayer! But don't worry, "It will work itself out."
While the federal government now raises the bar and seeks to impose even more onerous conditions and mandates upon our County community, the facts tell a very different story. While those who sued the County and HUD have labeled Westchester segregated, according to the 2010 Census figures Westchester County stands as the fourth most diverse county in New York State, equalingthat of Manhattan.
The Housing Settlement of Spano and Kaplowitz is further proof of the costliness and inefficiency of big government when the problem is already solved. This is nothing but government at its absolute worst. We knew from the beginning this was a terrible and one-sided deal which would cost Westchester taxpayers millions of dollars. Taxpayers, it seems, are the furthest thing from Tax Hike Mike's mind when in White Plains as evidenced by the fact that Westchester County has been the HIGHEST TAXED COUNTY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA four of the past five years. But don't worry, "It will work itself out."
Before this latest setback, Westchester County was an estimated 18 months ahead of schedule regarding the planning and implementation of affordable housing projects. To date, 164 units have been approved of which 154 have financing plans in place while 107 already have building permits. Those numbers exceed the benchmark to met by December 2011 and is only 18 units shy of the December 2012 benchmark.
The initial settlement cost projection, which included 750 units at a cost of $68,800 each, was supposed to cost the county $51.6 million. As the county has moved closer to implementation it has become apparent the cost per unit has been estimated at $101,700 for a grand total of $76.2 million. Now, in response to HUD's additional requests and mandates of 375 units of three bedroom housing drives the total cost up to $94.3 million, nearly double the original amount projected. But don't worry, "It will work itself out."
In addition to added costs associated with the housing settlement, HUD has stopped funding essential Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) in local communities, estimated at nearly $4 million. My opponent claims this has been the case for the past two years but the fact of the matter is the $4 million pulled from Westchester is a direct result of HUD's unwillingness to accept Westchester's progress. But don't worry, "It will work itself out."
Simply put a deal is a deal. Towards this end Westchester has worked hard to comply with the 2009 settlement. In Yorktown, we have ushered in Crompond Crossing, which will provide 26 units of working family housing. HUD's actions, despite our efforts and success, are nothing but an insult to the people of this county. We can no longer afford to allow things to "work themselves out." This complacent attitude will not keep people in their homes, businesses open, or food on the table.
My opponent has served the people of Westchester County for nearly 16 years. His dedication should be commended but it seems clear from his comments new blood is desperately needed. Westchester residents can no longer settle for the second best attitude of "It will work itself out." We need energized and committed individuals who understand the Taxpayer Bank is closed for renovation. This November, don't let things just "work themselves out."
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