The old school thinking of waiting for village and town boards to decide what type of community housing should be put in our communities (and where it should be put) has failed. Period, end of story.
If we want to have enough homes and apartments for our children who want to stay close to us but don’t want to live under our roof (or visa-versa), our parents who can’t manage their homes anymore, our brothers and sisters living in our basements and garages or in illegal apartments that don’t meet fire and safety codes, then WE, as individual community members and non-elected committees, have to get in front of this issue and start driving the bus.
Here are questions that each Citizens Advisory Committee, civic group and community group needs to be talking about at their meetings:
• Who needs housing in our community?
• What type of housing do they need?
• How many dwellings do we need?
• Where should they be placed?
It’s estimated that Southampton Township is at least 5,000 dwellings short of meeting the needs for its community members. What’s the estimate for Riverhead? Southold? Shelter Island? East Hampton? Every village and every hamlet owes their fellow community members its best effort to ensure that there are enough dwellings for our young and old, business owners and community servants. How’s your volunteer fire department and ambulance corps doing recruiting new volunteers these days?
Each village and hamlet can come together and craft a plan on how to effectively provide for their community housing needs and then request help in securing the resources needed to enact their plan from public and private sources, such as their town or village housing authority, The Long Island Housing Partnership, Community Development Corporation of Long Island and other available resources. The folks at these organizations know where the money and the developers are to help our dreams for community housing become a reality. The only thing stopping them from doing their job is US!
Every time they find the developer and the money to develop a community housing development, whether it be one house or 60 apartments, the NIMBYs come out of the woodwork and start hootin’ and hollerin’ at them, threatening to vote them out of office. Some of our local East End Community Housing developments have been held up for YEARS by lawsuits and legal and political wrangling that discourages anyone in their right mind from even considering proposing a community housing development on the East End.
The types of community housing to choose from are very varied. There are Accessory Apartments and Multi-Family Residences: 2 Family, 4 Family. If you have big houses sitting around, perhaps consider conversion of single family to multi-family or apartments.
There are Apartments: Studios, 1, 2 or 3 bedroom. Cottages: does your local zoning prohibit Tiny Houses? Demand a change in zoning to allow them! Just make sure we take water quality into account.
Then there are Townhouses (attached homes): 2, 3, 4 Bedroom. And there are always Single Family Residences, however, land cost and building materials and labor costs have gotten so high, it’s hard to build affordable single family homes anymore. Plus, we’ve up-zoned so many areas, it just doesn’t make sense. Perhaps your village or hamlet needs to demand creation of smaller lots near business districts where small houses can go. Now, THAT’s Community!
Don’t forget Senior Living: Active Adult Communities 55+, Independent Living Communities, Assisted Living Residences and Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Seniors want to live near businesses, coffee shops, libraries and in places where they can walk to meet their friends. Don’t go sticking them off in the woods somewhere!
We have to believe we are approaching a “tipping point” on community housing. So many of us have been sitting around, complaining that we don’t have enough places to live, yet not going to town and village meetings to stand up for proposed developments.
Times they are a’changing and we are ready to come together to put plans in place.
This is a very exciting time for our townships, our villages and our hamlets on the East End and we appreciate your contribution to putting housing for all community members on the front burner to address the Community Housing Crisis we are in.
If you’d like some help having this discussion with you organization or committee, we’re here to help get that conversation started in a supportive way. Don’t hesitate to write East End YIMBY at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk about getting started or moving the conversation along.
BE A YIMBY!
Michael Daly is an East Ender and regular contributor to The Beacon on community issues he cares passionately about.