Southold to Hold Public Hearing on Housing Plan

After more than four months of debate, the Southold Town Board agreed unanimously Tuesday evening to set a Sept. 26 public hearing on the town’s Community Housing Plan, which is required in order for the town to use the money in a new Community Housing Fund approved by a large majority of voters last fall.

The final draft of the plan can be found online here.

The public hearing will be held at the board’s 4:30 p.m. regular meeting at town hall on Tuesday, Sept. 26, and will be held open through the board’s Oct. 10 meeting at 7 p.m.

As rental prices and the housing market continue to climb skyward throughout the East End, properties that are being used for short-term rentals have also been a drain on the housing stock available for year-round people who live and work here, according to the Housing Plan.

The plan, which was released in April and has since been tweaked, calls for four methods of addressing the need for housing: Increasing the stock of year-round housing, maintaining existing housing, helping first-time homebuyers with down payments and providing education and counseling services.

The housing fund would be used to provide low interest loans for construction of community housing and accessory apartments, along with low-interest loans for first-time homebuyers and no-interest loans for first time homebuyers who are first responders, members of the military and health care workers.  

It would also be used to provide maintenance grants to keep existing housing in good repair and make it more energy efficient, and to provide housing education and counseling services, which would be multilingual.

The plan recommends Southold create a Housing Department and a Housing Program Manager position for a person to head that department, which will answer to the Town Board, unlike in South Fork towns, which have separate Housing Authorities that do not answer to their town boards.

The plan also recommends the town ask New York State increase the first-time homebuyer exemption from the Community Preservation Fund real estate transfer tax, which funds open space and water quality initiatives. Currently, only home purchases of less than $484,000 would be exempt from the CPF tax.

The Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act, approved by the voters last November, requires towns to update their Community Housing Plans every five years, but the draft of Southold’s plan recommends it “be revisited on a yearly basis for the first five years to determine whether an interim update to the plan is required,” due to significant demographic changes, housing conditions, changes to laws or land use practices.

The plan also recommends code changes regarding regulating short-term rentals, simplifying codes related to accessory apartments, and encouraging year-round housing and new accessory dwelling units “where appropriate for the community.”

The plan recommends the town develop a guide to the regulations regarding accessory dwelling units and funding sources that are available to build them, and a method to encourage property owners with unregistered apartments to register them and make them compliant with the code, perhaps through a short-term amnesty program.

Southold Town Hall is at 53095 Route 25 in Southold.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, 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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