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Calls for a Shelter Island Housing Authority

The Community Housing Board (CHB) wants to create a Housing Authority that could manage affordable rentals and sales on the Island.

Until now, the thrust has been to find contractors to build and manage structures for sale and rent. But CHB Chairman Chris DiOrio said he would like to have a governmental housing authority overseeing the process. Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams, Town Board liaison to the CHB, suggested a shared services arrangement with another East End municipality that, for a fee, could administer affordable housing.

It’s a subject to be further explored by the CHB.

Architect Michael Shatken, who has been an adviser to the CHB and has been named as a member of the Community Housing Fund Advisory Board, got the attention of the Community Housing Board when he told members he could not see a way forward to establishing affordables without taking actions to meet Suffolk County Department of Health Services requirements.

It’s not the first time Mr. Shatken has delivered the message. But the Board has had a lot on its plate without adding more initiatives.

“We’re sort of at a dead end” until a way is found to meet Health Department requirements affecting septic density without creating a water connection with at least six hookups and creating at least a small scale public water entity, Mr. Shatken told the Board at its March 31 meeting. There are also zoning issues to be addressed, but those can be solved locally, he said.

Shelter Island lacks some of the infrastructure that would usually be in place by municipalities, Mr. Shatken said. It may be necessary to bring an environmental consultant on board to meet requirements, he said. There’s likely to be a lot of competition for such a consultant but Request for Qualifications would show who might be available to assist the Board, he said.

Mr. Shatken also expressed a need to find a way to provide housing opportunities for a wide group of Islanders of varying economic levels. His concern is there may be those whose income levels aren’t low enough to qualify for affordables, but not sufficient to purchase or rent housing at market costs.

Member Peter McCracken, an associate real estate broker, noted that as of the end of February, the average median price of houses on the Island was $1.9 million, certainly beyond the ability of many to purchase.

Another issue on the table is establishing Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) from Community Preservation Fund-purchased properties to areas where affordables can be constructed. Supervisor Gerry Siller told the CHB there may be a possibility to do that on previously acquired properties as long as there are no prohibitions written into contracts at the time of purchase.

A review of those properties found only one case where an agreement barred being able to transfer those credits to use for housing development, he said.

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely is working on the issue to not only establish a TDR system for the town, but recapture those past credits, Mr. Siller said.

There are also plans to schedule a joint meeting between the CHB and CPF Advisory Board so the two can ensure they’re on the same page when it comes to how to handle septic development rights on properties bought with CPF money in the future.

What the CHB wants is to have the CPF write in a provision in future contracts allowing for TDRs, so sewer credits not needed on preserved properties could be used on properties where affordables could be built.

CHB members, led by Bran Dougherty-Johnson and Elizabeth Henley, are looking at ways to best reach the public to ensure voters have information to inform their votes on the Nov. 8 referendum that could provide money from a transfer fund, paid by property buyers, to be used in the creation of affordable housing.

The Community Housing Fund Advisory Board will be charged with much of the work of rallying support for the referendum, but the Community Housing Board can provide educational materials.