Westchester Legislators Virginia Perez, D-Yonkers, and Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, both said they are keeping an open mind on legislation included in the 2009 fair housing settlement that would prohibit discrimination against renters who use government income such as Section 8 vouchers.
The Board of Legislators is holding a committee of the whole meeting Monday at 11 a.m. and a public hearing Monday at 7:30 p.m. on the source-of-income legislation, which a federal appellate court ordered County Executive Rob Astorino to resubmit to the board last month. Despite language in the settlement requiring that he promote the legislation, he had vetoed it in 2010.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has held up millions in community block grant funding over the source-of-income legislation and other issues with the county’s compliance with the settlement and $7.4 million from 2011 could be lost for good in the coming months.
Perez, who wasn’t on the board the last time the legislation was voted on, said she is looking forward to the committee discussion and will not yet say if she will vote for it or not.
“It’s a very delicate subject,” she said. “We cannot afford to lose this money.”
Perez, a landlord herself with Section 8 tenants, said she supports the idea of the legislation because she knows there is discrimination against voucher holders. But she also questions whether landlords should be required to participate in the program because it imposes a new set of regulations on them.
Also, “A lot of landlords are afraid of being accused of discrimination,” she said. And renters are concerned the voucher holders will get an automatic preference, she said.
Kaplowitz said the court orders will weigh heavily in his decision. A major goal of his in voting for the settlement in 2009 was to not put the county’s money at risk, he said.
But, “I’d like to at least have a healthy debate on it,” he said.
Kaplowitz voted against the legislation in 2010 because he thought it could be a disincentive for affordable housing development and it could make landlords lean toward Section 8 tenants, potentially hurting those not on government assistance.
But, he said, he wants to see where the discussion goes and will look to see if, on balance, the bill does more good than harm.
“I’m going to be very practical on this vote,” he said, acknowledging he may be the swing vote.
Legislator Jim Maisano, R-New Rochelle, voted for the legislation in 2010 and could also be an important vote. Besides Kaplowitz and Perez there are eight Democrats on the board who are more likely than the majority of the Republicans to support the legislation. Nine votes are required for passage.
Many Democrats on the board want to see a vote as soon as possible. Astorino has said he will sign the legislation.