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Saturday open house on affordable housing: Advisory Board wants to hear ideas, questions

Whether you favor or oppose creation of affordable housing on Shelter Island, or have questions about the issue, the Community Housing Fund Advisory Board wants to hear from you. Members want input and will answer questions at an open house session Saturday, July 16, at the Shelter Island Library between 3 and 5 p.m.

Members of the Advisory Board will speak about the Nov. 8 referendum that could enable the Town to take advantage of a 0.5% transfer tax to be used for affordable housing.

The Advisory Board will explain how most future property buyers would pay less than those in the past who paid a 2% transfer tax to preserve land and improve water quality. It’s because exemptions from the transfer tax would be higher for future buyers of properties in any of the five East End towns that adopt the new tax structure.

“We’re all about listening to everybody, not just the loudest or those with the most money to take out advertisements,” CHF Advisory Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley said.

You don’t have to commit two hours to visit the several “stations” set up to provide information about:

• How money generated by the transfer tax paid by those buying property on the Island could be used to build new structures, create accessory dwelling units as rentals on existing properties and provide housing assistance.

• How applicants would qualify to rent or buy an affordable house based on Suffolk County guidelines affecting income levels.

• How money from the transfer fund could provide the basis for bonding that might be needed to meet construction costs.

Also on the agenda are the types of housing the public thinks is needed to accommodate emergency services workers; students who left town to continue their education but wish to return to use their knowledge and skills in their home town; and workers who currently have to bear travel expenses to work for Island businesses. Ms. Hanley said those who live in inadequate housing on the Island or work for local businesses would have preference.

The question of where the public thinks housing should be located and what they should look like will be addressed.

Those who come to the meeting will learn that the CHF Advisory Board doesn’t plan apartment buildings, Ms. Hanley said. They will also dispel concerns that an abundance of affordable houses is planned and show pictures of structures that have been envisioned.

If affordable houses are built, they would be on land currently owned by the Town that would remain Town-owned. That would enable sale and rental prices to be in line with federal housing laws, Ms. Hanley said. Sites must be environmentally sound in terms of their impact on water quality and sound septic practices, she said.

A lot of information has been disseminated throughout the Town, but not all is accurate, she said. The aim of this and future open house meetings is to ensure residents’ voices are heard and they get the information they seek about  the referendum, Ms. Hanley said.

For those unable to attend Saturday’s session, information will be posted in late July on the Town website at shelterislandtown.us under the committees’ tab and the tab for the CHF Advisory Board site.

A second open house session is slated for Aug. 6 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church hall.

Before a vote takes place, a plan being created by the Advisory Board in conjunction with consultant Kathryn Eiseman will be publicly available. Ms. Eiseman is a partner and  manager of the Environmental and Community Planning Division of the Nelson Pope Voorhis Long Island office.

The State legislation requires a plan be accepted before any transfer tax money could be used even if voters approve the November referendum.