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Port Chester Daily Voice serves Port Chester, NY

Port Chester Board Debates Housing Rehab Program

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - The Village of Port Chester Board of Trustees discussed the future of a housing rehabilitation program during a special meeting of the board at village hall Tuesday evening.

The program stems from both a resolution passed by the board on Dec. 5, 2011, and an agreement between the village and the non-for-profit Housing Action Council (HAC).

According to the resolution passed by the board, the village was granted $550,000 from Westchester County, in addition to one payment each of $600,000 and $200,000 from developers, to rehabilitate the village's housing stock.

The board unanimously agreed the funds would first be divvied out to owner-occupied housing to help get the village's illegal homes up to code. During the meeting, the board discussed two different implementation strategies to achieve this goal.

Trustee Bert Didden, backed by Trustee John Branca, requested that the board implement a short-term loan program for eligible residents that would encourage people to sell their homes.

"Maybe we should look at short-term lending as long as the house has ‘x’ amount of equity," Didden said. "This would allow us to give people the money so the house can resell. It's a way to generate sales moving in the village. By funding people to flip houses, you’re going to support the housing market that’s failing."

Mayor Dennis Pilla and Trustee Daniel Brakewood argued in favor of a more inclusive grant program.

"A loan program is going to be a disaster," Brakewood said. "I think it's better to give the money away. It has to be a grant program or an amnesty program,” he added, “the village isn't prepared to handle a loan program.”

Pilla trumpeted Brakewood's sentiment of a "forgivable loan" citing that many of the village's homeowners would be excluded if the village were to adopt a traditional loan process. Trustee Luis Marino was not in favor of "giving money away" to building code violators.

The "preliminary" discussion from the meeting acted as a starting point for Rose Noonan, who has represented HAC as an advisory member to the board, who will draw up plans that address the issues raised by both sides. Noonan plans to draft a loan program that is "as inclusive as possible" and disseminate it to the board in the next two weeks.

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