Recently I started a change.org petition, https://bit.ly/2A187Zf, to demand that Scarsdale build new affordable housing and begin the process of ending de facto segregation in our community. So far, this petition has gathered more than 1,500 signatures. This issue has always been important to me and, over the past few years, I have tried to bring attention to Westchester County’s unaffordable housing, so it is heartwarming to see how much genuine support there is in the community.
Although Scarsdale’s bylaws do mention affordable housing (Chapter 310, Article XVII), it is well known that these regulations are not enough. As a study by the Pratt Institute for Planning and the Environment explains, Fair and Affordable Housing (FAH) rules in Scarsdale only affect multifamily residences that contain more than five units, and because Scarsdale’s zoning laws only permit multifamily housing on 0.4% of town land, it is no surprise that Scarsdale has failed in its mission to provide affordable housing (Fellman).
As a result of Scarsdale’s exclusionary zoning practices, the village is incredibly homogenous. Scarsdale is 77% white, nearly 21% above the New York State average. Asian Americans, the other major demographic group in Scarsdale, have a population of only 5% above the state average, and the African American and Latinx-American populations are 15% and 13% lower than the state average, respectively (Statistical Atlas).
Scarsdale High School’s 2016-17 senior class was only 2% African American and Latinx-American (NYSED). Although the situation has somewhat improved, with Latinx-American students representing 8% of the 2019-20 SHS senior class (compared to the 27% state average), it is still worth noting that among Scarsdale’s Hispanic population, only 14% would be considered “non-white” (Statistical Atlas).
By getting serious about affordable housing and exclusionary zoning in Scarsdale, the village government would also be able to create a more prosperous community. As a result of Scarsdale’s exclusionary zoning practices, the village has seen “a net loss of over 50% of [our] young population aged 25-34… leading to a loss of economic growth in the community” (A. Roberts). Further, despite the popular belief that affordable housing suppresses property values, this is not the case. In 2017, researchers at New York University conducted a study on the impact that affordable housing has on property values. After looking at the data, they concluded that affordable housing does “not suppress property values, and may even raise them” (NYU Furman Center).
In order to begin integrating our community, raising property values, and making Scarsdale more dynamic and diverse, the village must tackle this issue. Knowing this, I propose that an affordable housing commission be established, with members representing all of the stakeholders in our community. This commission will take input from Scarsdale’s neighborhood associations, local nonprofits, community leaders and experts on housing policy in order to create a plan that will allow Scarsdale to build 30 to 50 units of affordable housing by 2030. In doing so, Scarsdale will become a more open community that is more in touch with reality and its progressive values.