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Housing Board talks budget for 2020

With town budget discussions for 2020 looming, the Community Housing Board (CHB) included decisive numbers to a request for funding. But what could be the largest part of the spending is missing.

That’s because a salary or payment to a consulting group to handle management of a housing project, while approved in concept by the Town Board, hasn’t been attached to a budget number. That awaits consultations between CHB Chairman Mike Bebon and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams, a liaison to the CHB.

Ms. Brach-Williams is expected to work with Mr. Bebon on developing a line item on consultants with the understanding that the money would be forthcoming if the CHB continues to move forward with its housing project. But it may or may not be allocated as part of the CHB budget. It could, instead, come from unallocated funds the Town Board maintains to fund unanticipated expenses.

Currently, the CHB expects to need limited management services, but that would increase once a specific project gets underway. Two sites are being explored — a town-owned site believed to be land adjacent to the Shelter Island Historical Society, and an unidentified private site that would have to be purchased.

Another part of the CHB’s agenda is looking at existing laws that can be changed to accommodate accessory apartments on existing properties.

Members raised several issues last week, including the possibility of opening up some of the Near Shore Overlay District to affordable housing, and questioning whether each application from a property owner in the overlay district should be weighed on its own to avoid an outright ban.

Member Peter McCracken asked if a property owner whether or not could offer an affordable structure on his or her land, bring in a tenant, and later end the tenancy, but still have the accessory structure. That’s something the CHB will explore further.

Building Permits Examiner Lori Beard Raymond told the CHB that she has been tasked with exploring restrictions the Suffolk County Department of Health Services might impose on accessory housing.

One issue that has long plagued affordable housing development has been the question of how to demonstrate the need for reasonably priced housing. Because the housing hasn’t been available, people have been reluctant to step forward to indicate their interest. But the CHB is tackling the issue head on by creating a short form that wouldn’t ask for or collect any specific financial information, but would later be needed to qualify when housing became available.

The form will appear on the town’s website on the Community Housing Board page and will ask people to indicate their interest in affordable housing and the number of people in their household.

Members are asking residents to check the website from time to time for the form.