Pictured Above: At the 2022 groundbreaking on the Three Mile Harbor housing complex, a $33 million development by Georgica Green Ventures and the East Hampton Housing Authority that is designed to bring 50 new energy-efficient rental apartments to East Hampton. The Town’s Community Housing Fund could be used to help pay for similar projects.

East Hampton Town now has $4.2 million in its Community Housing Fund, and over the next several months the town’s Community Housing Advisory Board is asking the town to begin spending that money on two pilot programs — for first-time homebuyer loans and loans to create accessory dwelling units — and for larger projects that will be reviewed by the Housing Advisory Board.

Town Housing Director Eric Schantz gave the East Hampton Town Board an overview of the plan at the board’s April 16 work session.

Four of the five East End towns (except for Riverhead) created Community Housing Funds last year after voters approved referenda asking whether the towns should instate a .5 percent real estate transfer tax to be used for workforce housing, which would operate like the Community Preservation Fund for land preservation.

Mr. Schantz said his office is looking to instate two pilot programs in the upcoming weeks. The first, which would be opened up to people looking to purchase property through the town’s existing home buyership program, would be a no-interest $30,000 first-time homebuyer loan, which would be recouped when the homeowner sells their property.

Mr. Schantz said that, with the average price of a home in East Hampton standing at about $1 million, a $30,000 loan wouldn’t go far if it was applied to residents who plan to buy homes on the open market. His office is instead planning to offer the loans to people looking to buy homes in the town’s Whalebone and Green Hollow housing complexes, or at the 16-lot Cantwell Court subdivision currently under construction, where homes are expected to sell in the neighborhood of $500,000 because the town will still own the underlying land.

“The math just doesn’t work if we’re doing $30,000 loans on the open market,” said Mr. Schantz. “If we wanted to make that effective, we would have to significantly increase the loan.”

Mr. Schantz said he anticipates the town could make 20 $30,000 loans this year on the 16 Cantwell Court properties and on the resale of other units on town land, spending a total of around $600,000.

To be eligible for the loans, applicants must be first-time homebuyers, be residents of East Hampton Town, meet the maximum income restrictions and it must be their primary residence. They can also apply for the New York State SONYMA First Time Homebuyer loan.

The accessory dwelling unit (ADU) pilot program would provide a loan of up to $100,000, which could be in addition to the money being awarded through the state’s Plus One ADU program.

Homeowners could live in either the ADU or their main home, but they must rent whichever unit they are renting for no more than 130 percent of fair market rent and their tenants must be year-round East Hampton residents who qualify for moderate income housing. The units could have up to two bedrooms and house up to four people.

The town would require the properties be maintained with affordable ADUs for 10 years, after which 50 percent of the loan will be forgiven. Loan forgiveness would be pro-rated if they exit the program sooner.

Mr. Schantz said he would like the town to open up the application process for the ADU loans on May 1, with a deadline of July 12, and to plan to give out 10 $100,000 awards this year.

He said the town’s Community Housing Advisory Board (CHAB) is also looking to issue a Request for Applications for larger housing developments, open to individuals, non-profit and for profit corporations and municipal agencies, on May 1, with a deadline of July 12.

He said the CHAB would review the applications, and score them by an already-established scorecard, and make recommendations for which projects to approve to the town board this fall.

“The town board is required to hold public hearings for all awards it may or may not grant,” he said. “By the end of 2024, we’ll have the final decision on awards to give.”

“We think the magnitude and size of the problem is big, and is a challenge,” said CHAB Chairman Andrew Garvey. “We also think there is a sense of urgency, that these things take time to solve, and therefore, given how long it is going to take to build more units, we feel that sense of urgency to try to get things moving as fast as we can…. We’re so thankful to have the dollars we have — $4.2 million is a lot of money in a lot of ways. But then we think of the magnitude of the problem, it’s actually a small amount of money. With our small dollars, what’s the biggest bang for the buck… That’s the tension we’re facing every day.”

“More units, rental units, are really in many ways the bigger solution out there, with some of the problems they come with,” he added. “That remains a big focus for the committee for hopefully the long-term solution for a big problem.”

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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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