Pictured Above: Affordable housing, like this Habitat for Humanity house being built right now in Riverside, is essential to keep the East End from becoming an isolated enclave for the wealthy.
It has been this newspaper’s stance to not endorse candidates for public office since our beginnings as an online-only news source in 2013. Our small staff does not yet allow for the editorial distance from the candidates we are covering for us to have an objective editorial board.
While we plan to re-examine the policy of not endorsing candidates as we grow, we believe it is vital this year to take a stand on two of the propositions on most East End ballots this November — on the creation of Community Housing Funds in four of the five East End towns, and on the $4.2 billion statewide Environmental Bond Act that will be a vital tool to fight climate change here.
Both of these propositions are essential to address crucial and very local issues, and that is why we wholeheartedly urge readers to flip over their ballots and vote yes on propositions one and three.
Way back in 2019, the state adopted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which set ambitious goals for moving New York into the clean energy future.
The clock is now ticking on those goals, which include an 85 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2050, mandating that 70 percent of New York’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030 and that all electricity sources be carbon free by 2040.
The proposal on the ballot this November, the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022, enables voters to chose to fund the goals set forth in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It includes funding for restoration and flood risk reduction, open space land conservation, climate change mitigation, water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure.
Environmentalists say this bond is essential to protect our communities from climate change, and as the area of the state surrounded by the most maritime coastline, the East End needs this investment. While the dollar amount of the bond may seem huge, it’s dwarfed by the $32.8 billion in damage caused in New York by just one storm, Superstorm Sandy, back in 2012. Investing in the future often comes with a sticker shock, but we believe this investment will be well worth the price.
The projects supported by the bond are also expected to support hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs in industries ranging from construction to clean energy to agriculture, and the funding is designed to address long-standing inequities in air pollution in low income communities and communities of color.
Proposition Two is on all Suffolk County ballots, and it clarifies county law regarding term limits for Suffolk County Executive, Legislators and the Comptroller to clarify that these positions have a term limit of 12 years, which can be either consecutive or non-consecutive. For instance, if you were a legislator for four years and then, years later were elected again, your personal clock on term limits would start again at four years, not at zero. This clarification is easy to support.
Proposition Three, which will be on ballots in Southold, Shelter Island, East Hampton and Southampton, allows each town to create a Community Housing Fund, similar to the Community Preservation Fund, to be used to fund affordable housing initiatives.
There is no topic about which we’ve heard more distress on the East End since the pandemic than the price of housing, which has already led many longtime residents to flee in search of a roof over their heads.
The money for these funds would come from a .5 percent real estate transfer tax, paid by the buyer when purchasing a home. The first $400,000 of the purchase price would be exempt from both the Community Housing and Community Preservation fund taxes in Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island towns, while the first $200,000 of the purchase price would be exempt in Southold. State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who drafted this plan, has calculated that, with the newly raised exemption, buyers of properties under $1 million would pay less than they’re paying now.
Existing federal, state and county funding sources for affordable housing are limited, and they come with many restrictions that have made affordable housing a difficult sell on the East End. Giving towns a steady source of housing funding will enable local decision-making for innovative housing solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of local communities.
From accessory apartments to revisiting multi-family housing that was once readily available here to rehabbing outdated homes and rebuilding on small lots in existing communities, there are many ways affordable housing can fit into the mix necessary to have a viable and engaged local workforce that is also able to contribute volunteer hours to their neighborhood. The passage of Proposition Three is a vital investment in a resilient community, and it also enables towns to remind new high-end homebuyers of the necessity of investing in the place they will be living in. This proposal is truly about community preservation. It’s been much-needed for years. We urge you to vote yes.