WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The announcement Monday that the state is setting aside $5 million in community development money for Westchester is "a double victory,'' a spokesman for County Executive Rob Astorino said Tuesday.
Federal money for communities unfairly punished by an ongoing legal dispute over housing is being freed up, according to Ned McCormack, a spokesman for Astorino. And it removes a club that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development continued to hold over county government as it appeals parts of the settlement agreement in federal court, he said.
"There was an implication that the county is not compliant, which is not true,'' McCormack said, noting that Westchester continues to meet affordable housing benchmarks outlined in its original agreement with HUD.
As a partial solution to the ongoing federal-county dispute, Gov, Andrew Cuomo and Congresswoman Nita Lowey announced Monday that local governments and non-profits will resume receiving affordable housing, community development and emergency shelter grants from HUD. As a result, $5 million in HUD funding will go to local communities this year.
McCormack noted that Astorino, Chief of Staff George Oros, the entire county legislature and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel also were lobbying HUD for restoration of the federal grant money since April 2013.
During a conference call, Lowey, D-Harrison, said, “The governor and I have found a creative solution so that going forward, HUD investments will once again be made in projects in Westchester. ... It's a very important issue that I have been working on for a very long time."
Since 2011, HUD withheld nearly $23 million in federal grants that would have gone to a consortium of Westchester local governments and non-profits.
Communities previously in the consortium can now competitively apply to New York state for funds. County Legislature Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, called the announcement "a win-win'' because the money will be set aside in "a lockbox earmarked for Westchester County."
The money set aside through Monday's announcement includes $3.3 million in Community Development Block Grants distributed by New York State Homes and Community Renewal; more than $600,000 in Emergency Shelter Grants, which can fund the renovation of buildings used as emergency shelters or transitional housing for homeless families; and more than $900,000 for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.
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