Focus on Suffolk: affordable housing on the agenda

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With the average house price in Suffolk now at $ 525,000 – and the median price on Shelter Island and the Hamptons at $ 1.4 million – the affordable housing situation in the county has become even more difficult for so many. of people.

“The need for affordable housing has reached crisis proportions,” says the county government’s affordable housing website.

What are we doing and what have we done to deal with this crisis?

One program that would help the East End is the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act, which for the second time was passed by the New York State Legislature and is heading to Gov. Kathy Hochul for his consideration. In 2019, his predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, vetoed the measure. If she signs it, it will go to voters in the five cities of the East End for their approval.

The legislation would provide for a half-percent tax on real estate transfers and “give towns in the Peconic Bay area the authority and resources to establish a dedicated fund to provide needed housing,” a memorandum said. legislative attached to the bill.

Meanwhile, a relatively new affordable housing program, the Long Island Partnership Community Land Trust, has moved forward, acquiring land for affordable housing in west and central Suffolk. It is applicable to the East End.

The Community Land Trust is an initiative launched in 2018 by the Long Island Housing Partnership. The Partnership states in its mission statement that its goal is to “provide affordable housing opportunities to those who, through ordinary operations and without market support, would be unable to obtain or stay in decent and secure housing”.

The Community Land Trust, a not-for-profit company established by the Housing Partnership, “acquires several plots of land in a geographic area with the intention of retaining ownership of those plots forever. The new owner owns the house on a parcel and the land remains in the Community Land Trust, which makes the house more affordable, ”the program documentation says. The Trust “holds” the land “for the community and never sells it” and “provides a very long term land lease, usually 99 years, for the exclusive use of individual owners”.

Peter J. Elkowitz, Jr., President and CEO of Housing Partnership, said ownership of this initiative has already been acquired in Smithtown, Patchogue and Bellport in Brookhaven Town, Melville in Huntington Town and Babylon Town.

The program “makes home ownership possible for many people thanks to this innovative program which offers houses at a lower cost since the land is not added to the purchase price”.

As part of the arrangement, “legal restrictions” are put in place, Mr Elkowitz said, to prevent a homeowner on Land Trust property from “turning it over” for profit. The land, he said, must remain in the affordable housing “pipeline”.

The Housing Partnership calls the program “a new model of homeownership” that will produce “permanently affordable housing.”

The Peconic Bay Area Community Housing Act was sponsored by State Assembly Member Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R- New Suffolk). The two men’s districts include Shelter Island.

It would take an additional half a percent of the two percent of the land transfer tax currently in effect in the East End through the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund. The tax, which began in 1999 after state approval and then support for referendums in the five cities of the East End, has raised more than $ 1.7 billion since. The product is used to save farmland and open spaces, maintain water quality and for historical preservation.

Under the heading “Rationale”, the “Memorandum in Support of Legislation” for the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act, states that in the East End, “The negative impact resulting from the lack of housing options is serious… Traffic congestion is intensified by the importation of labor from low-cost housing areas “and” the lack of housing opportunities forces residents to live in illegal and unsanitary conditions. The unique demographics and economy of the Peconic Bay area and the lack of affordable housing contribute to this housing shortage.

In addition, “the pandemic has caused residents to flee from urban areas such as New York to more rural areas such as the Peconic Bay area. The demand for housing in the region is currently at an all time high. “

With the money brought in under the program, says the body of legislation, “a city can provide financial assistance to a first-time homebuyer who is a city resident or who is employed in the city.” This could be “in the form of a grant or a loan”.

More details next week on the affordable housing crisis.


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