How HUD Makes Zoning Changes Through the Back Door
Introduction by Smith Young “):” This article is mistaken and malformed throughout, but it’s an excellent piece of literature on how an important topic can be massaged to present a convincingly false narrative. Using evidence associated with this complex topic with many vested interests, the information below demonstrates how staff writers push an agenda, how county attorneys can selectively interpret history and the law, and what politicians will say to appease special interests, specifically:
Staff writer Ms. Pinzow – “problems of the local municipality’s willingness to recognize impediments and seek solutions” (She is clearly not satisfied and expresses her opinion.)
County Executive Ed Day – wants to rewards grant applicants for developing projects that create revenue… From now on, an agency that either comes in under budget or returns revenue to the “pot” of available federal monies will get the first bite at that funding when new projects are approved. (He is simply uninformed, agencies that receive grants do not create revenue.)
County Attorney Mr. Humbach – said he did not agree with contentions that acceptance of funds by municipalities or not for profits would entail mandated changes in zoning.
He said it came about because of misunderstandings concerning what happened in Westchester and that rezoning was not an order of the court, “They claim that Westchester had to sue Chappaqua and these other rich places to force them to change their zoning. That’s an absurdity. (He knows that the changes in zoning by HUD are all through back door manipulation.)
Rockford, NY – Zone changes improbable as Block Grant stipulation
Our Town, Wednesday March 8, 2017
By Anne Phyllis Pinzow, Staff Writer
Recent litigation in Westchester has facilitated debate throughout the county [and country] as to what new “strings” are attached to Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and what changes would, could or must occur in Rockland County as a consequence of accepting these federal funds.
The dissension concerning acceptance of CDBG money came about when word was out that a lawsuit against Westchester County had been filed for non-compliance of an agreement to implement a fair-housing plan including the development of 750 units of affordable housing by the end of 2016 in “31” of its richest and whitest communities,” according to reported rhetoric.
Holly Leicht Regional Administrator – NY/NJ of HUD (Housing and Urban Development) said that was not the case. She said Westchester did their required analysis of impediments which they said showed nothing in any of the zoning codes of the towns that limited housing choices, “that was the basis upon which a not-for-profit anti-discrimination group sued them and HUD entered that case and it was settled in 2009. Westchester had to redo their analysis of impediments to look more deeply at the towns’ zoning codes.”
It took a long time for the funds to be taken back in this case because a settlement agreement had been reached with the prior county leadership in 2009 (former County Executive Andrew Spano) and then a new County Executive is elected (Rob Astorino) who wanted to fight the agreement.
Plan shows fair housing impediments
Rockland County had also filed such a plan which does show impediments to fair housing in several of the towns. The 2014 analysis prepared by Rockland County states the following. “To summarize the barriers to Fair Housing in Rockland County are, despite the efforts of Rockland County government, still considerable. These barriers include impediments to housing access, impediments to housing affordability, and problems of the local municipality’s willingness to recognize impediments and seek solutions.”
It goes on to say “Many jurisdictions in the county do not currently have land use policies and zoning in place which would permit the development of a full range of choices to meet the county’s diverse housing needs and facilitate fair housing choice for all segments of the population.”
Rockland County’s plan includes a list of recommendations to further fair housing under the following titles:
- Secure Federal Funding for Community Development Activities,
- Expand Fair Housing Activities and Services,
- Support Affordable Housing Production in All Areas of the County,
- And ”Ensure Consistency Between Local Zoning Ordinances and Fair Housing Choice.”
No detriment to county
Following these recommendations, the County Attorney Thomas Humbach should not be detrimental to Rockland. “I think you’ll find that HUD’s objectives about what the program is about has to be all the nice things the government wants; no segregation, seek to correct problems like disproportionate housing needs and they have to reach the objectives like creating jobs, creating fair housing, getting community participation in things…it’s all in the regulations that are unfortunately 100 pages long.”
In Rockland County’s compliance report it states that there municipalities that have not complied with these efforts in the past. The report states that obstacles to fair housing in Rockland include municipal zoning, building moratoriums, reluctance of municipalities to allow pocket communities, and municipalities’ not in my backyard” attitudes,
As the grant awards are aimed at blighted communities, Humbach said that the areas referred to in the report don’t have areas that qualify for CDBG funding.
Former President Barack Obama’s 2015 executive order concerning Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requires cities and towns which receive federal money to examine their housing patterns and look for racial bias.
Under the rule, any jurisdiction that receives money from HUD must analyze its housing occupancy by race, class, English proficiency, and other categories. It must then analyze factors which contribute to any imbalance and formulate a plan to remedy the imbalance. The plan can be approved or disapproved by HUD. This is done at both the local and regional level.
Looking at press releases for the past 10 years announcing the grant for recipients in Rockland County, there are areas that do not qualify, not because of zoning necessarily, but because they don’t fit the “blighted” as well as other qualifications.
Orangetown, Stony Point and Clarkstown have rarely come up with projects which qualified for funding but they have come up with some:
- Clarkstown – mini-trans, Squadron Blvd. Improvements, pedestrian signals
- Orangetown – ADA public facilities improvement project as well as different improvements in the villages of South Nyack, Grandview and Nyack (villages applied separately)
- Stony Point – ADA Elevator Justice Court
As to not-for-profits located in Orangetown under “Public Service Activities,” they have frequently received funding.
Humbach said there are only certain areas in the county that qualify for funds and that funding is awarded by census records and income. He said he did not agree with contentions that acceptance of funds by municipalities or not for profits would entail mandated changes in zoning.
He said it came about because of misunderstandings concerning what happened in Westchester and that rezoning was not an order of the court, “They claim that Westchester had to sue Chappaqua and these other rich places to force them to change their zoning. That’s an absurdity. Until the Supreme Court says so I’ll never believe it’s true…I don’t think in the long run that if somebody challenged that, that it would survive.”
Humbach said the 2015 executive order puts a higher emphasis on the assessment of fair housing. “That became a much stronger piece of it.” specifically in housing choice, “the disparity of community assets issues of segregation, racial or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty and disproportionate housing needs.”
According to the Rockland report, this county’s impediments include a shortage of available land, a lack of zoning allowing multi-family housing, second units, emergency shelters, transitional housing and community care facilities. There is an especial lack of housing for people with special needs.
What the county has done was stated a memo from Penny Jennings, PhD in the Office of Community Development to the Rockland County Budget and Finance Committee. She said that “awards were unevenly made before as there was a practice of allocating funds based largely on the level of funding awarded in previous years.”
For 2016 and onwards, Jennings said that “Awards were ‘more evenly’ determined this year (2016) as greater consideration was given to the project scope of work and budgetary needs/allowances.”
In reviewing 10 years of press releases, in 2016 compared to previous years there has not been much change to grant recipients in the realm of public facilities and improvements. In the area of public service there were 19 recipients as opposed to six in 2015, all of them having received funding in 2016 except for Helping Hands. In 2014 there were 16 recipients many of them differed as they differed in 2013. Throughout, Rockland County Legal Aid, Nyack Center, Jewish Family Services, Meals-on-Wheels, were often on the lists.
In County Executive Ed Day’s 2016 State of the County, he said, “County Attorney Humbach and my director of public policy and intergovernmental relations Stephen Powers, have also introduced competition into the realm of federal housing and urban development grants to local towns, villages and nonprofits. The policy change also rewards grant applicants for developing projects that create revenue… From now on, an agency that either comes in under budget or returns revenue to the “pot” of available federal monies will get the first bite at that funding when new projects are approved.
In Humbach’s opinion regardless of federal or county changes in the manner in which grant money is awarded, “There is no authority for the county to affect town or village zoning…we have no legal authority to make them change their laws regardless of what HUD might think.”
He said there is nothing in the statutes of the regulations that state anything about counties having to change zoning laws and nothing of any concern to Rockland County. Also, he said that there is nothing that states that a non-profit accepting CDBG funds would put the county or any of Rockland’s municipalities in jeopardy of having to change their zoning codes.