Pictured Above: New York Governor Kathy Hochul, then Lieutenant Governor, at a 2018 opening ceremony for the Peconic Crossing workforce and artist housing complex in Riverhead.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation Friday, Oct. 8 allowing the creation of Community Housing Funds in each of the five East End towns, squeaking in under the Saturday deadline to sign legislation drafted in the state legislature’s last session.
The Community Housing Fund, sponsored by South Fork State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., 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.
The framework of this new fund follows that of the wildly successful Community Preservation Fund, land preservation funds in each of the East End towns that Mr. Thiele helped to create more than two decades ago.
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 date of that referendum has not yet been set, but referenda authorizing the Community Preservation Fund had been set in conjunction with the November General Election, and it is too late this year to get such a referendum on the ballot.
An earlier version of this bill was vetoed by former governor Andrew Cuomo back in 2019.
Community Housing 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 bill passed the New York State Assembly on May 24 and passed the State Senate, where it was sponsored by State Senator Anthony Palumbo of New Suffolk, on June 10.
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 after the legislature approved the bill. “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.”