To help the Village of Dobbs Ferry’s new Affordable Housing Task Force develop a plan, the Dobbs Ferry Board of Trustees approved a joint proposal, on April 13, by the Pace University Land Use Law Center and the Tarrytown-based Housing Action Council to assist the task force.
Comprising the task force are chair Tracy Baron, Trustees Donna Cassell and Maura Daroczy, and Rob Lane of the planning board. Tracy’s husband, Rob Baron, liaison to the Traffic Committee, is a guest member.
“Dobbs Ferry, like so many places in Westchester, is becoming less and less affordable as a place to live,” Tracy Baron told the Enterprise. “If we want our village to remain an accessible and welcoming place, we need to be proactive in thinking and planning for these issues.”
The task force will produce a plan to increase the availability of affordable housing for a variety of people. To do so, the task force wants to engage the public and incorporate their concerns and questions into the plan.
In preparation for community workshops, the Land Use Law Center (LULC) and Housing Action Council (HAC) will conduct a review of regional, county, and local demographics on housing trends; review the task force’s research and list of possible actions; and develop a presentation for the public meetings.
After assimilating public feedback, the LULC and HAC will work with the task force on a draft plan, to be presented at another community meeting for further input; the two partners will then assist the task force on finalizing the plan.
The resolution to authorize the expenditure of $3,125 for the consultant services passed unanimously. Mayor Vincent Rossillo expressed his satisfaction with the vote: “They do a great job; I’m certainly in favor of it.”
In an April 20 email to the Enterprise, Rossillo elaborated on his experience with the LULC. “I attended the Land Use Leadership Alliance on Affordable Housing at Pace in 2013. Part of the course involved taking a bus tour of various affordable housing developments. We visited different affordable housing projects around the county. Some were geared toward seniors and others for families.”
The group toured developments in North Salem, Somers, Yorktown, Rye, New Rochelle, and Briarcliff (under construction at the time), mostly townhouses, he said, “but I was particularly interested in seeing the developments that were located near downtown areas. I think having access to public transportation and shopping are important.”
Rossillo noted, “The Village is constrained by space and finances, but we are committed to expanding our affordable housing options. Pace Land Use Law Center provides experts in this area... We have relied upon them in the past to review part of our code and provide training to members of the statutory boards regarding land use.”
The village code requires that for new developments of 10 or more units, 10 to 15 percent of units must be affordable. For new developments of five to nine units, at least one must be affordable. These requirements stay in place for 50 years.
Renters or buyers seeking affordable housing must apply through a not-for-profit, HUD-approved (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) housing agency that verifies eligibility, enters qualified individuals or families in a lottery, and maintains waiting lists.
According to the November 2019 Westchester County Housing Needs Assessment, the definition of “affordable housing” is a unit affordable to and set aside for a household whose income does not exceed a set percentage (up to 60 percent for renters and 80 percent for buyers) of Area Median Income (AMI) for Westchester County. AMI is determined according to maximum income guidelines and number of individuals per household; those guidelines are available online at bit.ly/3v0itzs.
The task force intends to meet with affordable housing committees in other villages to learn how those municipalities are addressing the issue. The task force has already introduced its mission and ideas to the village board as well as representatives of the Human Rights & Diversity Committee, Sustainability Task Force, zoning board, Local Development Corporation, school district, SPRING Community Partners, Cabrini Immigrant Services, and The Children’s Village; senior advocacy has also been approached.
“We’re looking forward to working with the team from the Pace University Land Use Law Center to help us plan a community forum that will allow us to hear from people in our community and help us to understand what folks see as the goals, priorities, concerns, and questions that should guide this work,” Tracy Baron stated. “We are also grateful to be working with the team from Pace because they can provide technical advice around what kinds of tools and policies are most appropriate for Dobbs Ferry, based on what we hear from the community."
“I'm confident that they will offer practical ideas that will be beneficial to the Village,” Rossillo added.