Pictured Above: It takes many hands, and many ideas, to find solutions for the East End’s housing crisis.

The New York State Legislature has approved an East End Community Housing Fund that echo the Community Preservation Fund, utilizing a .5 percent real estate transfer tax to create workforce housing.

The bill now awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature. If signed, it would be put up for a mandatory referendum before East End voters.

The bill, drafted by South Fork State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, was also championed in the State Senate by Senator Kenneth LaValle.

It would create housing funds in each of the East End Towns: East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton, and Southold.

The Community Housing Funds could be used to provide financial assistance to first-time homebuyers, for the production of community housing for sale or rent, to provide financial assistance in conjunction with a public/private partnership, including employee housing, the rehabilitation of existing buildings for community housing, and housing counseling.

“The lack of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions,” said Assemblyman Thiele. “Local employers have difficulty hiring and retaining employees because of housing costs and availability. Local volunteer emergency services are experiencing difficulty in recruitment and retention.”

If the fund is approved by the voters in a referendum, each town would have to adopt a Community Housing Plan and would be required to appoint a Community Housing Advisory Board.

The legislation would add .5 percent to the existing 2 percent real estate transfer tax for the Community Preservation Fund, but would also increase the exemption for that transfer tax.

In East Hampton, Southampton and Shelter Island, the exemption would increase from $250,000 to $400,000, while in Southold and Riverhead, the exemption would increase from $150,00 to $280,000.

The legislators figure that “Even with the proposed 0.5 percent increase, this raised tax exemption would result in lower closing costs for homebuyers purchasing homes under $1 million on the South Fork, compared to those under current law, and for purchases below $800,000 on the North Fork. Approximately 60 percent of real estate transfers would result in a reduction in closing costs under this legislation.”

Based on 2017 CPF revenues, the proposal would generate approximately $20 million annually for Community Housing across the five East End Towns.

“Long-time residents are forced to leave the area. Traffic congestion is intensified by the importation of labor from areas with lower housing costs,” said Mr. Thiele. “There is no one solution to this problem. 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.”

“Every year, I pledge to work to make Long Island more affordable,” said Mr. LaValle. “This legislation will enable towns, with the consent local voters, to create a new fund for creating affordable housing for first-time homeowners. After establishment, the Community Housing Funds will go a long way in creating a more affordable future and better quality of life for local residents.”

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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