This is Not Your Father’s Affordable Housing
by Michael Daly
Affordable housing has become a major topic of conversation for many communities throughout the East End of Long Island and the nation as income distribution gets more and more bifurcated.
According to a Federal Reserve report, the richest 1 percent of families controlled a record-high 38.6 percent of the country’s wealth in 2016. The bottom 90 percent of families now hold just 22.8 percent of the wealth, down from about one third in 1989 when the Fed started tracking this measure.
Today, affordable housing developments are being built for families of 4 who make more than $100,000 per year.
‘Housing affordability’ in the United States is measured as the percent of income spent on housing. Housing expenditures that exceed 30 percent of household income have historically been viewed as a housing affordability problem. In the U.S., more than 45 percent of renters were cost-burdened in 2014, spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
Locally, villages and townships are struggling with affordability issues in order to stop our young people from leaving the area because they can’t find work to pay the high rents brought upon by the high cost of real estate.
The average investor wants to make 7 to 10 percent on their investment annually, so if they buy a home for $500,000, they want to make between $35,000 and $50,000 per year in rent. That’s between $2,900 – $4,750 per month rent. How many of our young people, how many of our employees, working in shops, restaurants, construction and landscaping, can afford that?
There are several “affordable housing” developments going on in our East End townships at the moment. Some are for low to moderate income individuals or families who make 30 to 50 pecent of the area median income, which is $110,800 per year for a family of four.
YES, $110,800 IS THE MEDIAN INCOME FOR NASSAU & SUFFOLK COUNTIES!
Then some are geared towards middle income families who make 60 to 80 percent of $110,800 and yes, even families who make 100-120 or even 130 percent of median income are eligible for affordable housing opportunities today!
After several years of opposition by local residents to higher density housing plans, in March 2017, the Southampton Town Board unanimously approved a zone change that would permit the construction of 38 workforce housing apartments in Speonk. The Speonk project will consist of six two-story buildings and 38 rental units. There will be 12 studios, 14 one-bedrooms and 12 two-bedroom apartments available to residents earning between 50 percent and 90 percent of the average median income. The income range would run from $37,000 to $86,000(for a family of four).
Monthly rents for studios would range from $930 to $1,434; one-bedrooms from $1,000 to $1,500, and two bedrooms from $1,195 to $1,750. At the low end of these apartments, $930 per month is 30 percent of $3,100 income per month or $37,200 per year. The two-bedroom units are for people making up to $75,000 per year, but still only about 80 percent of the HUD median income.
Thankfully, this and the Sandy Hollow Southampton development will provide workforce housing to working middle-class families, including teachers, nurses, police officers and even town employees.
So, today’s affordable housing is not just for “poor people.” The hallmark of a sustainable community is one that cares for ALL of its members, regardless of age, income or national origin. Let us not forget those members of our community who need us the most.
Michael Daly is an East Ender and regular contributor to The Beacon on community issues he cares passionately about. He can be reached at 631.525.6000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org