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Community Housing Board eyes a project in the Center

JULIE LANE PHOTO Community Housing Board Co-chair Mary-Faith Westervelt discusses a possible project that could — with work — be converted into three affordable housing units.
JULIE LANE PHOTO Community Housing Board Co-chair Mary-Faith Westervelt discusses a possible project that could — with work — be converted into three affordable housing units.

The Community Housing Board (CHB) may have identified a house in the Center that could be converted to provide three affordable apartment units for families.

But finding the funds for the acquisition is just one of what could be several problems with the property.

The house would need substantial work to bring it up to code and would also need to gain approval of changes that have been made through the years, but never approved.

Currently, the building lacks the necessary certificate of occupancy.

Nonetheless, CHB Co-chairwoman Mary-Faith Westervelt told her colleagues Monday night that she would like to discuss the property with the Town Board.

Ms. Westervelt also plans to get in touch with Bridgehampton National Bank, not specifically for this project, but for general guidance that the CHB can use in structuring deals, whether for an existing or new project.

The board is also looking into the Southold town code and other towns’ codes with affordable housing to see those municipalities’ regulations and processes might be applied on Shelter Island.

CHB Member Bruce Saul has started this process with the Southold town code. Southold has established some affordable housing that is managed by the Long Island Housing Partnership and is still working to expand such housing to meet needs on the North Fork.

The CHB has been exploring whether tax incentives might be useful in enticing more people to rent space in existing houses. Co-chairman Hoot Sherman had spoken with assessors, who informed him the likely savings might amount to only $100.

“It isn’t much, but it still might be something,” Ms. Westervelt said.

Town Assessor Craig Wood told the CHB Monday night that properties would continue to be assessed at full market value, but it might take a referendum to knock off part of what a property owner has to pay in taxes.

The board also wants to revisit definitions in the town code pertaining to accessory apartments to determine if there are ways to legalize a number of existing apartments in the Near Shore and Peninsula Overlay District. While it was long thought those parts of the Island were the most threatened by issues affecting water quantity and quality, current studies are revealing problems are greater in the Center.

Prohibition of such apartments in the Near Shore was designed to protect the water supply and now the CHB is questioning whether those apartments that are known to exist can be legalized.

To date, the CHB has looked at half a dozen applications for affordable housing. But CHB Secretary Jeanette Flynn suggested statistics should reflect the number of people who would be sharing a unit, since an affordable apartment might include parents and children, and not just a single person.

A recent decision by the CHB to expand its membership has met with inaction by the Town Board. Without identifying them, Ms. Westervelt said two Town Board members expressed a lack of support for expanding the five-member CHB to seven members.

Among the needs the CHB sees is to have a member with a background in finances.

Ms. Westervelt said she would put together a position paper outlining reasons to expand the membership and submit it to the Town Board.