Pictured Above: The recently completed Vineyard Views workforce housing complex in Greenport.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. has re-introduced legislation that would authorize the five East End towns to establish Community Housing Funds, a measure that passed both houses of the State Legislature in 2019 but was vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The funds would come from a .5 percent real estate transfer tax similar to the Community Preservation Fund, and would only be established after a mandatory referendum.

Mr. Thiele’s office said Tuesday that the assemblyman has met with the Governor’s office, and “will continue to work closely with them by providing the information necessary to help address concerns noted in the veto message.”

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, for the production of community housing for rent, for rehabilitation of existing buildings for community housing, for housing counseling, and for the acquisition of property in existing housing units, to result in production of community housing for sale or rent.

Towns would have to adopt Community Housing Plans before the fund could be implemented.

“The lack of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions. Local employers have difficulty hiring and retaining employees because of housing costs and availability,” said Mr. Thiele. “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.”

The housing funds would be financed by a ½ percent addition to the existing 2 percent real estate transfer tax that funds the Community Preservation Fund.

The new legislation would also increase the exemption on the transfer tax for improved property to $400,000 in the Towns of East Hampton, Southampton, and Shelter Island to provide more relief to
affordable housing purchasers. The exemption would increase to $200,000 in Southold and Riverhead.

The exemption would also only apply to transfers of $2 million or less and will result in a tax cut for properties sold for under $1 million on the South Fork and on Shelter Island, and $400,000 or less on the North Fork and in Riverhead.

This legislation would effectively result in a tax cut for approximately half of all real estate transactions on the East End.

The purchase price limit for the exemption for first-time homebuyers in the towns of East Hampton, Southampton and Shelter Island would also be increased from 120 percent to 150 percent of the purchase price limit as defined by the State of New York mortgage agency.

These amendments to the exemptions are designed to mitigate any adverse impact from the transfer tax on housing affordability within the community.

The legislation is now before the Assembly Local Governments Committee, which Mr. Thiele chairs, for consideration.

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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