Community Housing Board wrestles with costs

The Community Housing Board (CHB) is challenged to make the math work to create affordable rentals and sale houses on the Island.

There’s not a simple formula, Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley told members at the Oct. 5 meeting.

She and member David Doyle have been crunching numbers and find with high interest rates and escalated costs of building materials, more exploration is needed to determine a means of constructing units.

Some sources of funding are available only for much larger projects, at least in part because the paperwork necessary is intense and not worth the time for only a few units, Ms. Hanley said.

Those programs through the Suffolk County Economic Development Corp and the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency are not absolutely off the table, Ms. Hanley said. But with the town looking for 10 units or less, they aren’t guaranteed to give the Island a lot of consideration, she said.

No one’s suggesting construction of fancy housing, but the CHB wants to assure the units fit the character of the Island and are sufficiently sturdy to last.

Member Peter McCracken, a real associate real estate broker, said he will look into the possibility that homes would not be taxable, with member Bill Mastro saying since new construction would occur on town-owned land, it might not be taxable.

Bonding is a possibility, but would require a town referendum and with high interest rates could make affordability difficult.

Plans for sale houses would include provisions that buyers who qualified would own the houses, but not the land on which the houses sit. It would also limit improvements to the house such as a tennis court or swimming pool, while allowing for some basic changes could be made. The town would maintain a first right to purchase the house if buyers chose to sell at a future date. The aim is to always maintain affordability for any affordable structures. 

Separate from the drive to create affordables are units being crated under the ADU Plus One program. It doesn’t set affordable prices on the rentals, but would still provide apartments and the hope that homeowners would be able to afford to stay in their houses with the aid of rental incomes. The program appears to be galloping along with 11 applicants nearing the point when all are solidified and construction could begin. Another applicant is still in the running, Ms. Hanley said.

But before the Community Housing Board looks to New York State to increase its investment $2 million grant to provide money to qualified applicants to adapt their properties to accommodate renters.

The estimate is it will take 16 projects to use up the money the Community Development Corporation of Long Island secured on behalf of Shelter Island.