Pictured Above: Politicians got a tour of one of the apartments in the Peconic Crossing affordable housing complex in November of 2018, built with major support from Cuomo’s office. But the governor has taken a different tack on a new bill that would allow the East End’s thriving real estate market to finance affordable housing.

The great hope of affordable housing advocates on the East End of a new tool to fund housing here was dashed Dec. 20, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have established a Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Fund.

South Fork State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. drafted the bill based on the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund, a law he drafted more than two decades ago that has been a game-changer for land preservation here.

The Community Housing Fund would be a .5 percent real estate transfer tax, reduced on transactions of $1 million or less on the South Fork and Shelter Island, and on transactions of $800,000 or less in Southold and Riverhead Towns, and it would require a public referendum to be held by each town before it was adopted.

Mr. Thiele’s bill had passed the New York State Senate in a 44-18 vote and the State Assembly in a 122-24 vote during this past spring’s legislative session, and lawmakers were hoping the governor would sign it by the end of this year. 

“I recall that in 1997, the first time we passed the Community Preservation Fund, it was vetoed,” said Mr. Thiele in a Dec. 23 statement. “We worked with the governor cooperatively to pass the bill the following year. Now, the CPF has raised more than $1.5 billion for land preservation and water quality protection. It has been replicated dozens of times across New York State. I am committed to working with the Governor’s Office on affordable housing, just as I did 22 years ago on land preservation, to pass this legislation in 2020.”

Mr. Thiele hypothesized the governor vetoed the measure as part of a policy he has of reigning in local taxes, but Mr. Thiele was quick to point out that this tax would be on luxury properties, and would represent a tax cut for about 60 percent of all real estate sales here.

“The Housing Fund bill would have fairly placed the financial burden for affordable housing on the luxury, second home market that has driven up housing costs for local families in the first place,” he said. “Still, for example, the new law would have only added $15,000 to the purchase of a $2 million home.”

The bill would have allowed each of the five East End towns to set up housing funds that could have been used to provide financial assistance to first-time home buyers, to build new housing for ownership and rental, to rehabilitate existing buildings for housing, to enter into public/private partnerships to provide housing, including employee housing, and to provide housing counseling.

A June 2019 report from the State Comptroller ranked Suffolk County as one of the top five least affordable counties for housing in New York State.

Mr. Thiele estimated that the legislation would have raised $15 to $20 million annually for affordable housing on the East End.

— BY

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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