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Progressive Govt thinking on a “Fair Housing Mix”

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This is not an easy read, understanding a Liberal never is.  Best to read this introduction subsequent to the article below and it will make more sense.

You’re a liberal if you read and agree with the opportunities for federal incentives (grants) in the following editorial piece.  This article and the editorial staff are excellent examples of how to use Alinsky’s principles, author of Rules for Radicals, specifically:

“The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy’.”

The dangerous enemy referenced here are property owners reading this newspaper article who are opposed to high density, low income housing in their neighborhood.

Addressing housing issues for Rockland County, NY, and Bergen County, NJ, this article runs counter to the popular opinion of local residents.  These issues, however, are now becoming widespread everywhere.  As you begin reading you’re going to be wondering where this article is going, perhaps enjoying and trying to understand the description of how villages, towns are organized within the two counties.  The author(s) first establish their perspective as to why villages and towns are incorporated, i.e., to control zoning.  However, it’s clear by the editor(s) opinion, (which should make you suspicious) that he or she knows far too much about government.  The light will come on about the editors journalistic perspective when the article discusses the homeless and makes the statement that  “the homeless find shelter wherever they can in the woods, under bridges, any place out of sight of people who might resent their presence and want them to move on.”  The point of the article is finally exposed  when the author(s) declare it’s time for making a sound economic policy.  Excuse me, their idea of a sound economic policy has nothing to do with free enterprise and the rights of property owners.  Specifically, they envision what they believe should be a “fair housing mix”, albeit not demanded by HUD; a housing mix that should have federal incentives and should not be viewed with fear by current residents, but as an opportunity.”

Federal incentives should in fact be viewed fearfully, incentives, i.e., CDBG funds, are enemies not opportunities for local governments and property owners.

Our Town Newspaper, click – A Fair Housing Mix

(Anonymous) Editorial, September 7, 2017

What is the relationship between the Democratic primary in the 97th Assembly District and the fair housing requirement that accompanies community development grants?

Ellen Jaffe’s challenger, Thomas Gulla, issued a statement last week blaming Jaffee for unrestrained growth and poor planning decisions in her district, which includes Orangetown and Clarkstown.  Gulla, who serves on the Village of Airmont Planning Board should know better.

All planning and zoning, in fact all land use, is determined by town and village plan­ning and zoning boards.  County legislators and state legislators have no say and no con­trol over these decisions, a fact that Gulla should have learned as a member of the Airmont Planning Board since 1999.  If bad decisions have been made in that village, he must share the blame.

But Gulla’s appalling lack of knowledge or willful indifference to the jurisdictions and functions of the government has deeper significance.  As a condition of accepting federal HUD money, Rockland must ana­lyze and report on housing conditions and progress in achieving a fair and balanced housing mix recognizing race and economic status.  The reports have been faithfully filed.  HUD is not about to descend and exercise its legal muscle to force compliance, as was done in Westchester.  Rockland and Westchester are different cases Westchester made an agreement with HUD to eliminate exclusion and discrimination in housing and did not live up to it.  Rockland complies by filing required reports.

These reports indicate present conditions and impediments to achieving fair and balanced housing, a federal goal.  The fact is that affordable housing and a housing mix is severely limited in Rockland, where multi­ple residence zoning is limited and local opposition is intense.

The most significant impediment is, despite Gulla’s ignorance, is the way authority is divided among the county, towns and villages.  The County of Rockland has a planning board, but it can only issue recommendations to the town or village making a land use decision.  A county recommendation can be over-ridden with a super-majority vote.  Lacking jurisdiction, Rockland as a county has no land use regulations.

Instead, each town and village exercises virtual autonomy over land use, and people like it that way.  Control of land use lies at the heart of the movement for incorporation of Pearl River as a village, and indeed was the impetus for the Balkanization of Ramapo, divided into little fiefdoms at various times in response to fear of town zoning policy.

While the county can compile data and submit it to the federal government and keep its share of the bargain, the county, absent a radical restructuring, with ques­tionable constitutional authority, cannot mandate any equitable housing policy.

As many organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity and Helping Hands, have learned, creating a housing mix is a difficult and daunting task.

Rockland lacks any kind of shelter for homeless single men and women; shelter­ing them requires the good works and hos­pitality of houses of worship and the Helping Hands organization which pro­vides cold-weather temporary places to sleep, dinner and breakfast at the participat­ing churches synagogues and mosques.  That sheltering begins in late autumn and ends in early spring.  In between, the homeless find shelter wherever they can in the woods, under bridges, any place out of sight of people who might resent their presence and want them to move on.

Helping Hands has been able to find a few apartments that can be used as transi­tional housing, but housing even at market rental rates is scarce in Rockland.  Even peo­ple who work full time for minimum wage are often unable to afford rentals.  Where Helping Hands has been able to find hous­ing, the results have been rewarding.  The formerly homeless recipients of regular housing have been able to move upward from living on the streets or temporary shel­ters to rebuilding their lives as working and contributing members of the community.

Habitat for Humanity suffers no shortage of volunteers, but is hard-pressed to find land on which to build single-family or semi-attached affordable housing in Rockland.  Residents fear it, as if ability to afford rents or mortgages is a guarantee against the crime and blight many see as the by-product of affordability.

The county’s initiative against housing violations and the people who profit from illegal and unsafe occupancies is cleaning up many of unsafe and illegal housing units, but while saving lives of res­idents and firefighters, are cutting into the already limited low-end housing stock.  For health and safety reasons, aggressively locating and prosecuting violations is essen­tial, but the other end of the equation, assur­ing a supply of affordable housing across a broad socio-economic spectrum, as demanded as a condition of accepting vari­ous types of federal aid, is proving prob­lematic.

Even suggesting a solution can be haz­ardous because of the violent and vehement response it arouses.  Thom Kleiner, running for Rockland County Executive, lost the race partly because of his stand on afford­able housing.  His very modest but very log­ical proposal was that as a condition of multi-family zoning permits, a minimal number of units be set aside as “affordable” by the developer, with below market rentals.  It would not have created public housing, but the controversy was sufficient to sink Kleiner’s election bid, even though everyone knew or should have known that the County Executive has no authority over housing.

One of the impediments to a fair housing mix is the reluctance of towns and villages to zone for multiple-unit developments, except for senior citizens.  As a result, work­ing families and young people just starting out, have few housing opportunities.

Volunteer fire companies were among the first to notice the drop-off in volunteers, caused by older members moving away and younger potential members unable to move in.  Some departments have addressed the problem by providing housing for volun­teers.  Orangetown has these homes on for­mer Rockland Psychiatric Center grounds, while Homes for Heroes on Western Highway in Tappan provides eight units (with more proposed) for disabled veterans.

 

Fair and diverse housing is the purpose of the so-called Mount Laurel decision in New Jersey, now decades old.  It was con­troversial when handed down by the courts, but is now accepted as a reality.  As a result, most New Jersey towns, even those where exclusionary zoning was not an issue, have a mix of housing.  The onus falls on devel­opers who, in return for land use approvals, must provide a certain number of affordable units, whether for rental or purchase.  These exist in Norwood, Northvale, Mahwah and most other towns.

They are not luxurious in comparison to the McMansions that are often built in some proximity to the more upscale develop­ments, but they are new, clean, safe and respectable.  just the opposite of the nega­tive image of “low income” housing that so many people fear so much.  Much of the Mt.  Laurel housing is provided with limited profit provisions so that as families move upward in income, the units will remain affordable for the next occupants.

For Rockland the type of housing mix envisioned but not demanded by HUD would create would increase the number of younger people moving in, would con­tribute to the local economy by adding to the number of consumers with money to spend locally instead of on transportation, and would help employers develop a work­force pool, especially for the traditionally low-paying service sector jobs.

This goal is not pie-in-the-sky Liberal utopian daydreaming but an economi­cally sound policy decision.  Groups such as Housing First have made it work with demonstrable savings in the social cost of inadequate housing and in the contribu­tions to society that result from providing citizens with stabile, affordable places to live.

We know the realities of public reaction to any suggestion of “affordable housing” or a “housing mix.”

People fear what they do not know, and often that fear turns to opposition to “they” and “them” moving into their communities.  Meeting the goals for a fair housing mix does not automatically bring public housing and will not result on a homeless shelter appearing in the middle of a residential block.  It may someday come about in Rockland when our reports motivate some kind of federal incentives that can be viewed not with fear, but as opportunity.

 

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Name: Smith Young

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