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Town Board gets guidance on affordable housing: Nonprofit official offers advice

While waiting for the November vote on the Community Housing Fund, which could provide a source of money for affordable housing, the Town Board Tuesday afternoon began exploring methods and money sources that have been used by other municipalities.

Gwen O’Shea of the Community Development Corporation of Long Island (CDCLI), a regional nonprofit addressing affordable housing issues for more than 50 years, briefly explained two concepts — Community Land Trust and Restrictive Developments.

The Community Land Trust concept creates housing priced at a low rate because the owners who buy a structure never own the land on which it sits. Ownership of the land would stay either with the Town or a developer who constructs the housing.

One negative aspect is the time it takes to set up a Community Land Trust when “time is going to be a driving factor,” Ms. O’Shea said.

Conversely, a Restrictive Development can be created by the landowner but covenants must be enforced on both the landowner and the buyer of the structure. Neither, for example, could improve the property with what would be considered “luxury” additions, such as a swimming pool or tennis court that could knock the property out of the affordable category. This is to ensure there are covenants in place that don’t violate Fair Housing legislation, but limit what can be done by either the landowner or the home buyer to enhance the property.

To maintain the property as perpetually affordable, it must be clear of any covenants that could alter its intended use.

Ms. O’Shea also recommended modular housing, rather than traditional construction, since it costs less. She noted modulars through the years are well designed and attractive. Modular housing is also being developed employing green concepts, making them an investment in environmental sustainability, Ms. Hanley said.

As for financing, there are sources that can be tapped for construction loans that would be repaid as buyers paid their mortgages. There are also sources of money to assist home buyers to meet their financial obligations.

In addition, groups like CDCLI work with potential buyers to either qualify them to purchase or assist them in clearing up credit issues that may be problematic for them to qualify. A “rent-to-own” situation can help a person or family to start off as renters, but as they become qualified to take on a mortgage, give them credit for the rents they’ve paid toward the purchase price.

Ms. Hanley has pointed out that if voters approve use of the Community Housing Fund transfer tax paid by people buying property on the Island, it would be a positive step toward bonding for additional money until the fund grew enough to become sustaining.