Pictured Above: The Speonk Commons affordable housing complex was one of the few recent successes at building consensus with the community about building housing here.

As the East End plummets deeper and deeper into an affordable housing crisis, both houses of the New York State Legislature have passed a bill that would create town fund for housing administered much like the Community Preservation Fund.

The bill, drafted by South Fork State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, passed the Assembly on May 24 and passed the State Senate, where it was sponsored by State Senator Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk, on June 10. It now awaits the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who vetoed this proposal when it was first passed by the legislature in 2019.

When Mr. Thiele reintroduced the bill this January, the Assemblyman said he had met with the Governor’s office, and “will continue to work closely with them by providing the information necessary to help address concerns noted in the veto message,” which cited not creating new taxes as a rationale for the veto.

The Community Housing Fund would be funded by a 0.5 percent real estate transfer tax on hefty real estate transfers here. The first $400,000 of the sales price would be exempt from the tax in Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island towns, while the first $250,000 of the sale price would be exempt from the tax in Riverhead and Southold towns.

Community Housing Funds would be set up by each of the five East End towns only if voters approve the creation of the funds through a mandatory referendum.

The funds could be used to provide financial assistance to first-time homebuyers not to exceed 50 percent of the purchase price, for the production of community housing for sale or rent, for the rehabilitation of existing buildings for community housing, housing counseling, and the acquisition of real property in existing housing units, to result in production of community housing for sale or rent.

Each town would have to adopt a Community Housing Plan before the fund could be implemented.

The affordable housing crisis on the East End “has been exacerbated by Covid-19 and the sudden and drastic increase in second home purchases,” said Mr. Thiele. “This has driven up the cost of real estate on the East End, as we are watching our housing supply disappear.

“The lack of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions. Local employers have difficulty hiring and retaining employees because of housing costs and availability,” he added. “Local volunteer emergency services are experiencing difficulty in recruitment and retention. Long-time residents are forced to leave the area. This has all been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is driving up the second home real estate market on the East End. However, this legislation will provide towns with a meaningful tool that can make a difference by providing housing opportunities for its residents at a much greater rate than they can with existing resources and programs. Ultimately, it will be the voters who will get to decide.”

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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