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  • Mamaroneck Observer

Affordable Housing Report

By Cindy Goldstein -


The first part of the Work Session was a report from Village Planner Greg Cutler titled “The State of Affordable Housing in Mamaroneck.”  See Report HERE and Presentation HERE.  Described as a “Crisis of Affordability,” Cutler outlined the dramatic increase in the income required to afford a median priced single-family home in the Village.  In 2019 the minimum household income required was $270,000.  In 2023 that amount soared to $374,000.  The median price of a single family home is currently around $1 million.


What is Affordable Housing? 

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines it as “Housing that can be obtained by spending no more than 30% of gross annual household income on housing and utilities.”  Cutler went on to explain the various types of affordable housing initiatives, including income tax credit housing developments (LIHTC), Section 8 vouchers and Inclusionary Zoning Units.  His presentation included the historical impact of zoning laws on affordable housing and segregation because zoning laws were often designed to explicitly prevent certain racial and ethnic groups from renting or owning a home.


Regional factors contribute to affordability problems including job growth, housing production, rising construction costs and regionally permitted housing units.  Cutler also explained that the 2009 HUD settlement with Westchester County did not implicate the Village due to the demographics in the 2000 census and not the number of affordable units at the time.  The settlement agreement also required municipal recipients of Westchester County funding to agree to ban local residency requirements and preferences that do not affirmatively further fair housing for all housing developments. 


Editor’s Note: During the meeting Village Attorney Bob Spolzino referenced a privileged and confidential memo sent to the Board of Trustees outlining how a preference for local residents is difficult but not impossible.  The Village refused to provide The Mamaroneck Observer with a copy of that memo without approval from the Board of Trustees.


The Disconnect Between Income and Housing Costs

Household income and rents have moved on dramatically different trajectories.  Since 1990 median household income in the Village has increased by 15% while rents have soared by 90%.


The report goes on to outline both the rent burden and home ownership burden.  In 2022, 39% of homeowners and 47% of renters were either burdened (30 – 49% of income toward housing) or severely burdened (50% or more of income toward housing).


The economic reality of a “do nothing” approach would expect housing demand to continue to increase and rents will continue to outpace inflation.  Low and middle wage workers could be pushed out of the community and local businesses would be unable to fill jobs.  Cutler described the fact that creating more units is more cost effective for developers but keeping density low will result in less units being built.  In other words, the Village Board must make an important policy decision about building heights and density which could change the character of the Village overall.


Zoning Changes and Developer Profitability

A zoning change analysis for “inclusionary zoning” to require developers to offer apartments at various average median income (AMI) levels shows that there’s a narrow band of feasibility; in other words, developers would not achieve a reasonable rate of return on their investment if affordable units were required at lower AMIs.  This delicate balance of requiring developers to include lower levels of AMI in their projects and still be able to achieve profitability could seriously impair future development of affordable units – and perhaps development overall.


Cutler also reported that Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) would probably not be feasible as their impact on the problem would, at best, be minimal.


Mayor Torres questioned the current infrastructure capacity and asked how many more units it could support.  The report did not include an analysis of the current infrastructure (e.g., sanitary sewer capacity, roads, and schools).


Trustee Lucas noted that a regional housing approach is more equitable.  Cutler agreed that a regional approach was the best, if not the only, way forward since the problem is regional.


Trustee Yizar-Reid asked about other housing options such as condos and co-ops.  She wondered how affordable those were but since co-ops often have strict requirements for purchasers she wondered if they contribute to discrimination.


A snapshot from the Village’s 2020 Census shows that about 25% of the Village has less than $50,000 of household income with another 25% with household income between $50,000 and $99,000.  See Previous Article HERE.  These figures show that the real need for affordable housing for current residents is at the lower range of AMI.  More analysis will be necessary to see if the two proposals to develop the Hunter Tier Lot would actually meet the needs of local residents.  However, since there is no “preference” for current residents, it is an uphill battle to try to help the people already living here.


Mamaroneck is not unique in its struggle to maintain the diversity that residents value, but with the two Hunter Tier Lot proposals on the table these questions will have to be addressed soon.


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