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Affordable housing proposition is in a waiting game: Uncounted absentee ballots to decide its future

Supervisor Gerry Siller said Thursday he expects uncounted absentee ballots — as of Thursday totaling 113 — aren’t going to be tallied until next Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. That leaves the status of Community Housing Fund Proposition 3 hanging with an eight vote margin, with 889 votes rejecting the proposition and 881 approving the initiative.

That’s the same number posted on Tuesday night on the New York State Board of Elections site that is hosting Suffolk County results because of the September cyber attack that affected the County’s ability to provide information.

Shelter Island Republican Party Chairman Gary Blados said he has tried to get the Suffolk County Board of Elections to count the estimated 113 absentee ballots sooner, but has had no luck. Neither he nor Mr. Siller had information on whether an automatic recount would be triggered if the margin remains similar to the tight vote margin that currently exists.

“I won’t try to guess on this one,” said Democratic Town Chairwoman Heather Reylek. Patience is called for, she added, in letting the Board of Elections “do what they have to do under New York State election law.”

What is assured, according to Mr. Siller, is the Town Board will push ahead with efforts to create affordable housing with or without the 0.5% real estate transfer tax. “Absolutely,” he said about the commitment all members of the Town Board have made to create affordable housing.

But if Proposition 3 fails, there will be no transfer tax money paid by some purchasers of Island properties against which the town could borrow to fund the effort, Mr. Siller said. That will become a cost to Town taxpayers.

On Tuesday, the supervisor visited some affordable units in East Hampton and noted the 20 complexes, each of which contain four rental apartments, represent far more than what Shelter Island is planning.

Shelter Island is the only one of the four towns that put Proposition 3 on their ballots to have a waiting game on results. Southold, Southampton and East Hampton passed the initiative by comfortable margins.

East Hampton and Southampton have made major strides in building affordable housing, while efforts until now have been mixed in Southold.

East Hampton voters gave the initiative a 68.5% endorsement to Proposition 3 to 31.46% who voted against it, according to results posted on the State Board of Elections website. Southampton voters had a smaller, but still positive margin with 53.4% voting “Yes” to the transfer tax compared with 46.6% who turned thumbs down.

In Southold, where recent efforts on affordable housing projects have failed, voters endorsed Proposition 3 by a vote of 58.9% versus 41.1% who rejected it.

Riverhead did not place the initiative on its ballot.