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Thiele, Palumbo push Community Housing Act as deadline approaches for Gov. Hochul to sign bill

With the change in leadership in Albany, Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and State Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) are spearheading a coalition of 35 East End leaders to get Governor Kathy Hochul to sign legislation that would create a Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act that was pending with former governor Andrew Cuomo.

The act would give each of the five East End towns the ability to hold a referendum that, if passed, would allow creation of a fund similar to the two Community Preservation Funds that provide money for land preservation and water quality projects.

But in this case, the Community Housing Fund would add a 1.2% increase to the existing 2% transfer tax paid by those acquiring properties in each town.

Under the Housing Act, the transfer tax currently in place would be reduced for an estimated one-third of transactions, Mr. Thiele said.

On Shelter Island and the South Fork those exemptions from the tax would be increased from $250,000 to $400,000. For property transfers on the North Fork, those exemptions would increase to $200,00 rather than the current $150,000.

The net impact would be to reduce the existing transfer tax on all transaction of $1 million or less on Shelter Island and the South Fork and transaction of $400,000 or less on The North Fork, Mr. Thiele said.

At the same time, implementation of the Housing Act would provide revenue to defray costs of providing affordable housing, the legislators said. He pointed out that if the Act had been in place in 2020, it would have generated $30 million in revenues throughout the region, providing financial assistance to first-time home buyers and actual production of new affordable housing opportunities.

Shelter Island’s Community Housing Board has long been struggling with finding money to help fund development of twp affordable housing projects it has been exploring. The former chairman of that Board, Mike Bebon, had praised the potential of the legislation to help the town in its efforts.

The Community Housing Board (CHB) has been suspended for a period of time as Mr. Bebon was forced to resign since Town Code prohibits a Town Board member from sitting on the CHB. He subsequently quit the Town Board and announced he and his wife would be relocating to South Carolina.

But the blowup over his situation,and a subsequent removal by the Town Board of a relatively new member who argued against the creation of affordable housing, resulted in reducing membership to a single person.

On Friday, the Town Board took action to appoint several new members providing a path forward for work to resume.