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Quest for affordable Island housing continues

While the Community Housing Board continues a quest for the development of the first affordable rental complex on Shelter Island, one local builder who originally pursued the same goal has redirected her efforts, with one modular two-unit complex completed, a second one in process and a third planned.

But Janalyn Travis-Messer, who is not reluctant to note that she’s a businesswoman who wants to make a profit, still is open to working with the town on affordable housing.

“I would love to do it,” Ms. Travis-Messer of Griffing & Collins Real Estate and DJTM Enterprises said.

There have been years of debate about affordable housing on Shelter Island. In 2016, a reconstituted Community Housing Board submitted a plan to the Town Board by Ms. Travis-Messer for a two-unit structure on Route 114 and Hedges Road. While it was pending before the Town Board, Ms. Travis-Messer was also looking at the financial requirements set by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department for what she could charge for apartments.

At the time, rentals in Suffolk County could not exceed $1,003 per month for an efficiency apartment; $1,324 a month for a one-bedroom unit; $1,600 for a two-bedroom unit; and $2,089 for a three-bedroom unit.

Ms. Travis-Messer said then she needed to charge $4,000 per month total rent for two units. By the county standards, she could charge more than $3,413 for the modular structure she was proposing.

Other stipulations required enough onsite parking for residents of the units. Neighbors living near the site complained that traffic in and out of the area would be impeded by the number of vehicles using the units. Ms. Travis-Messer countered that the number of vehicles neighbors were projecting were far more than the residents of a new structure would need.

Ultimately, the Town Board turned down Ms. Travis-Messer’s proposal. She subsequently had a single family modular house built on the site and sold it. 

A modular house that arrived on the Island recently via South Ferry is also a single family modular structure and has been sold. Ms. Travis-Messer said she doesn’t want to identify the site where the house will be placed.

A third project she plans will be a single family rental unit, she said, again declining to say where it will be sited.

If past Town Boards were not fully committed to the concept, former supervisor Gary Gerth and current Supervisor Gerry Siller have pledged support. Town Boards working with both men appeared serious about a willingness to work with the Community Housing Board (CHB) to make affordables a reality.

Both officials have encouraged ideas put forth by the CHB to take the town out of the business of overseeing construction and management of such projects.