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Housing Board negotiates for affordable rental sites

Much of last week’s Community Housing Board (CHB) meeting was held in executive session to discuss negotiations with property owners about sites under consideration for four to six affordable rental units.

In addition to two sites already under consideration, a third parcel has emerged and the board is anticipating discussions with the property owner.

To date, only six people have filed forms indicating a preliminary interest in an renting an affordable apartment. All but one are town employees. 

The current forms for those expressing an interest in affordable rentals requires no financial information and are not applications, but simply give the CHB an idea of the number of people interested in housing.

Board member Peter McCracken said he believes once an actual plan is announced and made public, people seeking housing will “flock” to add their names to the list.

The problem the CHB has always had is a perception that there’s no housing available, board members have said. That isn’t the case, since there are times when property owners make known the existence of rental housing on their properties. But it’s true no town-sponsored affordable housing for rentals or sales has been available since the houses on Bowditch Road were built in the mid-1990s.

Councilman Mike Bebon, who continues as chairman of the CHB, suggested at last week’s meeting that in addition to criteria rating applicants on eligibility for housing, extra points should be given to those who serve as firefighters, EMTs and in other volunteer positions serving town residents.

Financial information furnished for Suffolk County determines what a landlord can charge for a space rented as affordable housing. But it’s up to the town to determine criteria for eligibility that could give preference to those who live and/or work on the Island, and then to those who work on the Island, but live elsewhere.

Mr. Bebon took the opportunity to comment briefly on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto of legislation meant to create a transfer tax paid by new buyers of properties to be used in developing affordable housing.

“It is what it is,” Mr. Bebon said.

He noted that when the legislation that created the Community Preservation Fund was initially introduced in 1997, it failed to pass. A year later, the CPF legislation passed, creating a 2% transfer tax with money to be used to preserve open space and farmland sites. 

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who sponsored the CPF legislation, is a sponsor of the failed housing bill this year. He has pledged a renewed effort to pass such a bill in the next legislative session, which would add a 0.5% tax paid by property purchasers and use it for affordable housing efforts on the East End.