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Westchester County In Hot Water Over Affordable Housing Settlement

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A battle over affordable housing in Westchester County is heating up.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported Thursday, the issue of affordable housing has divided Westchester for decades, and now federal authorities are turning up the heat on the county, threatening to once again withhold additional millions in grant money for allegedly not complying with a 2009 housing settlement.

“This is a travesty, we have already lost $7.2 million around Westchester. We are now in danger of losing another $5 million,” said Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins.

A settlement reached in 2009 required the county to spend $51 million and build 750 units of fair and affordable housing in 31 mostly white communities over seven years.

County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said Westchester is in full compliance, but is resisting the fed’s demands to lift what they call “exclusionary zoning.”

“We will not be held hostage by the federal government by making demands that are not in the settlement, and try to force us to do away with local zoning so federal bureaucrats can dictate housing in Westchester,” Astorino said.

Now, Rev. Al Sharpton says he will have groups follow Astorino’s campaign for governor if he doesn’t change course.

“We will accompany him all over the state, with little ‘Astoroids’ all over the state, to remind him that his commitment to live up to what the agreement is,” Sharpton said.

“It would be useful for Andrew Cuomo, instead of sending his henchman to put a black eye on Westchester, I think he needs to make sure we are all working together,” the county executive said.

Astorino claims his rival Gov. Cuomo has been silent on the housing issue, an issue that might cut both ways in a campaign.

“The plus for Astorino is visibility. He needs it, he has no name recognition, he needs to pick it up. The plus for Andrew Cuomo is that he is on the right side of this issue of general election voters in New York,” said Baruch College professor David Birdsell.

Astorino said the county has not been fined, because it is in compliance.

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