Featured Story

Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: One piece of the puzzle

Supervisor Gerry Siller made some news (to some folks) at the July 19 Town Board work session on affordable housing options for Shelter Island. There will be affordable housing, Mr. Siller said, no matter the result of a November ballot referendum that, if accepted by the voters, would bring funds to the town for that purpose.

Last October, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-Buffalo) signed legislation allowing the five East End towns to establish an  addition to a  real estate sales transfer tax specifically for affordable housing funds.

That law will authorize the towns to hold referenda on adding 0.5% to the existing 2% Community Preservation Fund tax on real estate transactions. Each town must present a detailed plan for the funds to their respective communities before holding the referendum.

In May, the Town Board unanimously established a Community Housing Fund, where monies received from various sources solely dedicated to building or acquiring affordable housing — including the possible new tax, grants and Town funds — would be deposited.

If voters turn thumbs down on an addition to the real estate transfer tax, “Nevertheless,” Mr. Siller said, “we’re going forward with a housing plan.”

Mr. Siller and the Board are not just looking in one direction for affordable housing solutions, but  demonstrated at the work session one way some Islanders who work on the Island could get financial help.

There was a presentation by a representative of a San Francisco company — Landed, Inc. — that provides capital in shared equity agreements to pay part of a down payment on a home for municipal, school district, medical and other employees it deems “essential” to a community.

The company will, in most cases split a 20% down payment for a home with the employee. The shared equity arrangement is not a loan and there are no monthly payments. The contract is for a shared investment, to last from two to 30 years.

Landed, Inc. will share in the home’s appreciation in value, either when it’s sold or refinanced. And if the property has depreciated in value, Landed will share in the loss, reducing the homeowners total repayment.

An example presented at the Board meeting was the company putting up 10% of a down payment on a home costing $500,000, or $50,000. If that property appreciates to $600,000, under the agreement, Landed would get back its $50,000 investment plus $25,000 for the $100,000 appreciation value.

By the end of the contract, if the property has a depreciation, Landed takes the loss with the homeowner, reducing the total repayment.

Town employees, including the Police Department, who work a minimum of 20 hours a week, would be eligible, and it seems, School District employees could also apply for the shared equity program.

As for eligibility for the volunteers to Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services, more information is forthcoming.

It was an impressive presentation, and if put into practice here, could be an opportunity to solving — only one part, but a significant one —  a problem that has been the focus of debate in the past and in our own times.