By Cindy Goldstein -
The Mamaroneck Observer reached out twice to Rich Nightingale with questions about the Westhab/WHA proposal - once before the scheduled 1/29/24 meeting and once after.
Q: Please explain the parking changes from the original proposal to the January 2, 2024 revised submission. See HERE.
A: In response to concerns about Village parking needs Westhab revised the proposal to increase public parking spaces from 52 (original proposal) to 103 spaces. Resident spaces remain at 67 for a total of 170 spaces. The additional spaces would be built on an underground parking level. The Village would pay the significant additional expense due to significant excavation and rock removal.
The proposal includes a $5 million acquisition fee paid to the Village of Mamaroneck. Under the original proposal $1.5 million would be returned to Westhab for the public parking construction costs (52 spaces). With the increase in public parking spaces (to 103 spaces) in the proposed revision, the Village would forfeit approximately $4.5 million for the construction of the public parking. In sum, the additional 51 spaces would cost the Village more than $3 million.
Q: Does your proposal include real estate tax abatements?
A: There are no real estate tax abatements in our proposal. Those kinds of incentives are sometimes offered by municipalities to attract marquee real estate developers. As with all of the other Washingtonville Housing Alliance buildings the Hunter Tier will pay real property taxes to the Village, County, Mamaroneck Schools and Town.
Q: How much in real estate taxes will be paid to the Village, Town, County and schools?
A: Westhab is interested in paying appropriate and predictable real estate taxes each year in order to be able to afford the building operations. We anticipate paying more in real estate taxes (or through a PILOT – payment in lieu of taxes) than any increased expenses to the municipalities due to additional services provided to the building residents. Because there would be restrictions on the property there would be an expected discount from fair market value assessment. The exact figures will be determined at a later date.
Q: We understand that Westhab will income-verify all tenants initially signing leases and then again each year for continuing tenants. How does that work if a tenant gets a large raise or marries a partner who makes more money that would have disqualified them if they were initially applying?
A: Westhab encourages upward mobility and will not remove any tenants for a change in circumstance where they make additional income. Based on our history managing affordable units once a family’s income increases substantially the tenants generally move out of the building.
Q: How is the calculation of AMI (Area Median Income) applied?
A: For purposes of comparing to AMI we use the tenant’s gross income (before taxes). The target is for a tenant to pay no more than 30% of their income in rent. Hunter Terrace offers income bands ranging from 30% of AMI to 80% of AMI. On the flip side, tenants may not apply for a unit with rent lower than the AMI category that their income qualifies them for. Family size is also taken into account.
In other words, there is a maximum AMI as well as a minimum AMI within each band of income.
Q: What about the lottery system? This is causing a lot of concern among residents many of whom would like to see a preference for current residents.
A: If we were permitted to offer a local preference we would be happy to do it, but we may not under fair housing laws. We have no choice but to use the lottery system. Because of our local contacts through WHA there will be extensive marketing/outreach to Mamaroneck residents ensuring that any current residents are aware of the opportunity to apply.
Q: Will the Village own the property or sell it?
A: That will depend on the final plan which will be negotiated with the Village once a developer is chosen. The Village may prefer a long-term lease.
Q: Will the building be affordable forever?
A: Generally, the answer is yes. Based on our financing, income tax credits are available to the funders of the project that require 30 year affordability. Westchester County requires 50 years of affordability. In addition, the Village could impose restrictions to require affordability in perpetuity.
Q: What were your impressions of the meeting on January 29th that was adjourned due to overcrowding?
A: We weren’t surprised by the level of community interest – on both sides. We know there is a lot of interest and discussion about the proposal, and we welcome that conversation. We hope to speak with people on both sides and answer all questions and will sit with anyone for a rational conversation. The problem with the meeting is that there weren’t any rules, and the public didn’t know what to expect. I’m sorry that it turned out the room was too small, and some folks were outside in the cold. It’s important that the meetings - for both proposers - are re-scheduled promptly.
We at Westhab at not shy to talk about our proposal. We’re very proud of our proposal – as proud as we were when we first presented. People have things to say and that’s all fine. We want a constructive dialogue. The process must be fair to the 2 proposers and the community.
There’s a lot of conversation now but, the time to have had the conversation about whether or not to have affordable housing at the Hunter Tier parking lot was six months ago when the Board considered issuing an RFP. The Board did issue an RFP and received two proposals – either 77 units with a local housing group who has been in the community for 44 years or 187 units that includes an adjacent site. The point is that the Village has a deteriorating parking lot, and the Village cannot maintain the status quo. If the parking lot isn’t fixed then there won’t be any parking available for the Emelin – or anywhere else. The current condition of the parking lot is not sustainable and cannot continue. We want to accomplish something good for the residents, businesses and the local economy.