The Homestead: 2030 or Bust!
by Michael Daly
Inadequate housing and transportation systems are violations of human rights and need to be seen as such.
Rights-based housing strategies are not the same for every city, village and hamlet, but in all cases, they must ensure that no one is left behind.
“This also means housing strategies must go well beyond the provision of housing. They must aim to transform societies where economic policies and housing systems create and sustain inequality and exclusion,” writes Leilani Farha from The Guardian News Service.
A United Nations 2015 Summit put forth Sustainable Development Goals that “are a new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.”
Ms. Farha continues, “In committing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)…world governments undertook to ensure access to adequate, secure and affordable housing for all by 2030. By necessity, the SDGs catapult housing to centre stage.”
On the South Fork of Eastern Long Island, it is estimated that there is a need for 7,500 affordable and workforce housing units. Southampton Township, alone, is in need of 5,000 units. In 2017, after 20 years of wrangling with NIMBYs shouting down affordable housing developments and filing lawsuits to stop them, two projects — one in Speonk with 38 units and one in Southampton with 28 units — were finally approved and will start construction in 2018.
We have just 4,934 units to go! That will require development of 400 units a year to reach the UN’s 2030 goal.
East Hampton Township has a smaller population and has had better success at developing needed community-based housing over the years. Their estimated need of 2,500 units is still daunting.
In late 2016, Suffolk County eliminated eight of its least utilized bus routes to help close a $78 million budget shortfall. This left an already outrageously inadequate public transportation service in tatters.
Today, it can take three hours each way for a mother in the Springs section of East Hampton to bring her sick child to the pediatrician’s office IN East Hampton! In Southampton, mothers and infants wait in the dirt with no shelter from the weather for the eastbound bus on County Road 39 near the former Lobster Inn, with 18-wheelers carrying marble and granite and Ferraris whizzing by at 50 miles per hour. They wait for a bus that rarely runs on time and sometimes just doesn’t show up. And Suffolk County wonders why ridership is down.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, himself a former Suffolk County Legislator told the county legislature at a 2016 hearing that they “should expand the system, not reduce it. It’s balancing the budget on the backs of some of the poorest people in the county. It’s the wrong thing to do and I would urge you to not move forward with this, to invite myself … and others into this process to see if we can find some other solutions.”
In November of 2016, after the bus routes were eliminated, County Legislator Bridget Fleming led the measure to create a new County Transportation Committee. The 11-person committee is evaluating the county’s current bus transportation system in order to increase ridership and improve public transportation options. At a recent meeting at the county offices in Riverside, committee members lamented about there being “no funds available at this time” to reinstate the routes.
Back to this being about “human rights.”
Governments all-too-often rely on the private sector for housing, especially in rural communities like the East End, but the lack of adequate housing for local people has crossed the line from being “an expensive place to live” to “a region that is not providing for its citizens.”
If the free-market private sector does not create housing for those who are in need or most vulnerable, it is the responsibility of village, township, county and state officials to do so. Find funding, implement additional transfer taxes, utilize Community Preservation Funds, create tax incentives. TRANSCEND NIMBYISM and DO THE RIGHT THING!
Public transportation, on the other hand is the responsibility of local, county and state government. As we sit here, day after day, complaining about the traffic on the East End, we have been abandoned by our county leaders, who put system costs over the public need, disregarding the rights of our residents.
Have we become a playground for the wealthy, while locals are being priced out of the housing sale and rental market? Are we going to allow Suffolk County to virtually eliminate public transportation so mothers can’t get their children to the doctor without a car and employees can’t get to and from work?
It’s now 2018…2030 is 12 years away. Think globally, act locally. We can choose to remain complacent or to stand up and call for action on affordable, workforce and mature adult housing and viable public transportation at village, town and county meetings. Your voice is needed. BE A YIMBY! Visit East End YIMBY at www.facebook.com/beayimby.