During a press conference on Nov. 19, Westchester County Executive George Latimer officially released the county planning department’s housing needs assessment.
“Affordable housing is a major contributing factor to a balanced and well-functioning county and in turn, its communities and neighborhoods,” Latimer said. “To that end, Westchester County undertook this Housing Needs Assessment to establish a data-based foundation for the creation and preservation of affordable housing in Westchester County.”
“This Assessment is not a fair share housing allocation plan; it does not assign any number of units to specific municipalities. The Assessment looks at the County’s history of housing policies; lays out the methodology for data analysis; provides findings on a wide variety of demographic, housing stock and housing affordability issues; and provides recommendations, including Best Practices from across the country, to help the County move forward in addressing its affordable housing needs,” Latimer explained.
The Assessment used a standard statistical approach viewing Westchester County as a whole and with a separate look at the municipalities.
Findings of the assessment include:
There are 345,885 housing units in Westchester; 81 percent of the housing units in the county were built before 1979.
The City of Yonkers has the most housing units with 82,562; the Village of Buchanan has the fewest with only 864; 62 percent of the County’s units are ownership – slightly lower than the 63 percent national average; while 38 percent are rental units.
There are 2,476 Public Housing Units and 13,092 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers units.
There are 34,221 ETPA (Emergency Tenant Protection Act) units in 1,773 buildings in the county; 141,570 households (41.4 percent of the total number in the county) are living in homes and apartments that are paying more than 50 percent of their income toward their housing costs.
There is a significant shortage of housing for extremely low-income renters, people with disabilities, seniors, large families and the homeless. In particular, families and individuals who face intellectual and developmental disabilities, who need specialized housing with services, are not being adequately served.
There are 89,839 people living in poverty in Westchester (9.4 percent of the total population).
The greatest growth in population is in the 85 and over cohort (e.g. the Towns of Lewisboro and Pound Ridge with 232 percent and 202 percent increases respectively), between 2000 and 2017, demonstrating the need for senior housing.
The combined population of the five largest cities represent 46 percent of the total population in the county.
The 30 to 44-age cohort shows decline, which may mean there aren’t enough affordable housing options for young families.
More people commute into Westchester to work than those who live and work in the county; the majority of commuters (58 percent) drive alone to work.
There is no municipality where the market rate rent for a 2-BR unit is affordable to households earning the local hourly renter wage; the greatest monthly gap, at $1,823, is in the Village of Pleasantville; municipalities with gaps over $1,700 are in the City of Peekskill, the Town of Bedford and the Village of Port Chester.
There are only three municipalities where the HUD FMR is affordable to households earning the local hourly renter wage – the Town of New Castle, and the villages of Bronxville and Pelham Manor.
The Housing Action Council found that 68.6 percent of households seeking housing under the Housing Settlement were already living in Westchester; there were 9,260 applicants for 395 affordable rental units in development – a ratio of 23 applicants for every unit of rental housing.
The finding that 50.7 percent of all owner households earning between 30 percent and 50 percent of the County’s Area Median Income (AMI) are severely cost burdened should not be a surprise, the report noted, but the conclusion that 22.9 percent of households earning between 80 percent and 100 percent of AMI might be (when one considers that a family of 4 at 100 percent AMI earns approximately $117,100 in Westchester County). It is important to note that these households have housing; but they cannot comfortably afford it.
Similarly, the Assessment concludes that 2,556 households in the county live in substandard housing. The Assessment also concludes that 4,523 households are severely overcrowded.
The total number of new affordable housing units needed, according to the assessment, is 11,703. This represents the total number of Westchester households that are severely overcrowded or Homeless, as well as the non-Westchester Homeseeker registrants.