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Suffolk Closeup: $600,000?

That number above is what the “median home price” in Suffolk County had risen to — a record high — as was reported late last year based on data provided by OneKey MLS. With a Long Island base in Farmingdale, OneKey MLS describes itself as New York State’s “largest multiple listing service” for real estate and the “ninth-largest multiple listing service” in the U.S.

How can most people afford $600,000 for a house?

“They can’t,” says Jim Morgo, an expert on housing here. He was formerly Suffolk County government’s commissioner of economic development and workforce housing, and for 17 years president and chief executive officer of the Long Island Housing Partnership. Earlier, Morgo, of Bayport, was a teacher and Suffolk County legislator with a focus on housing.

And that $600,000 is for all of Suffolk County. On the East End, the median price is far more. Realtor.com, also a real estate listing operation, currently says the “median listing home price” for Shelter Island is $3 million.


Realtor.com further says there are now “45 homes for sale” on Shelter Island.

In Southampton, says Realtor.com, the “median listing home price” is even greater — $3.4 million. The Realtor.com website says the “median listing home price” in Sag Harbor is, like the Island, also $3 million. And the “median listing home price” in East Hampton is $2.7 million — a dubious East End housing bargain.

Our friend and neighbor in Noyac, next to Sag Harbor, was over recently relating how her son and daughter-in-law left Suffolk and bought a house in North Carolina for somewhat over $400,000, in a coastal community no less. And a “very large house” to boot.

That’s one way that many younger people are handling the astronomical cost of housing here. And it is why younger people, indeed many people, not only find it impossible to stay in Suffolk County, but to come and settle here.

Back to that $600,000 “median home price” in Suffolk. After a $100,000 down payment, a $500,000 30-year fixed rate mortgage would run $2,500 and more a month based on what’s become the mortgage interest rate of more than 6%.  That monthly charge would be about $35,000 a year. And that’s before insurance and property taxes.

Morgo says the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department places its “standard for housing costs at no more than 33% of your monthly income.”

Thus, the current level of housing costs here is “unachievable for many people,” he says.

And, he notes, “it’s no better for renters.”

Still, says Morgo, “A lot of things can be done to make the situation better.” The “basic solution is providing more supply.” 

Morgo is excited about Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) plan unveiled late last year, the Pro-Housing Community Program, an initiative that would reward local governments for instituting housing programs.

“Increasing the housing supply in New York is critical, and I’m using every tool a governor has at her disposal to make an impact,” said the governor.

The program would “give priority consideration for up to $650 million in state discretionary funds to localities committed to housing growth,” a state announcement said.

The state’s Housing and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnaukus said: “Local governments are a critical part of the solution to the housing shortage in New York State and we now have a program in place to reward their efforts. Communities who do their part to increase housing supply will receive a boost in their applications for some of the state’s most in-demand discretionary funding streams. This is a win-win for everyone and an important step toward growing the housing that New York needs.”

At the start of 2023, Hochul announced in her “State of the State” address a “New York Housing Compact.” It would have required cities, towns and villages in the state to add housing every three years by 3% downstate and 1% upstate. The state would have been able to override local zoning decisions if localities didn’t meet targets. The program sought to add 800,000 new housing units over a decade.

Although supported by housing advocates across the state, it was challenged in the state Legislature amid opposition from some local government officials and state representatives — including from Suffolk — as an infringement on “home rule” and dropped by the governor. In its stead has come a carrot: an incentive through the Pro-Housing Communities Program.

This year in her State of the State address, Hochul was back focused on affordable housing. “Gov’s new housing try,” was the headline in Newsday. Explained Hochul’s office in a statement, the governor “today announced the next phase of her long-term strategy to increase housing supply and affordability as part of her 2024 State of the State address.”

More on that and other initiatives to deal with the housing crisis in this space next week.