Featured Story

New affordable housing on the horizon for Shelter Island: Also action on accessory dwelling units

The Community Housing Board (CHB) is pushing ahead with two major initiatives for affordable housing on Shelter Island, the first since the mid-1990s.

The first could be rental units built from scratch by the Town Board on the former Highway Department barn site adjacent to the Shelter Island Historical Society. In an informal outreach to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, which would have to approve the plan, the CHB proposed eight units at that site and was told the limit would be six.

But requests for proposals (RFPs) for a total of 10 units are being issued by bundling proposals for two units on town-owned sites — six at the old highway barn site near the Shelter Island Historical Society and the other on 16 Manwaring Road — according to CHB Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley.

“I feel that it’s within grasp,” Ms. Hanley told the Reporter Monday afternoon. There’s a lot of work to be done regarding legal measures and requirements to meet Suffolk County guidelines for affordable rents, and with more details to come, Ms. Hanley said. She described the new proposals as building on work done in past years by other members to soften the community reaction to affordables, which were in the past beaten back by NIMBY— not in my backyard — attitudes.

There were a lot of compromises that had to be made by past members of the CHB to begin to plant the idea of creating affordable units so those employed on the Island can live in the town, and young people who grew up and left for school can return to their roots at a reasonable cost.

Thanks to the passage of the state’s Community Housing Fund, some seed money will be provided through a real estate transfer tax for development of affordable housing. The town can also seek loans, grants and contributions to offset costs.

At the same time, the CHB is moving ahead with its $2 million grant from the New York State Plus One, negotiated for the town by the Community Development Corporation of Long Island (CDCLI) to enable property owners to provide accessory dwelling units, either by adapting a main house to accommodate a tenant, or a unit that could be in a separate structure on their property.

Grants for projects could fund up to 16 units if each property owner took advantage of the maximum assistance of $125,000.

If some projects need more than $125,000, it’s possible they could get low-cost loans to augment the grants through the CDCLI. Or, the state might be forthcoming with more than the $2 million already awarded to the town, Ms. Hanley said.

There are already close to 10 applicants for the grants, Ms. Hanley said, and the CHB is assisting them in filing applications.

Those who get the grants must agree to maintain the dwelling units for 10 years, or forfeit some of the money they were awarded. But if a tenant moves, another can be moved into the unit without any forfeit.