Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell is proposing to double the limits of the town’s current zoning rules in order to increase affordable housing rental units across the North Fork.
The code currently allows developers to build up to six affordable rental units per acre. At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Mr. Russell proposed increasing that limit to 12 units per acre.
Instead of large affordable housing complexes residents had pushed back against in the past, the supervisor also called for smaller rental housing developments no larger than 25 units scattered around the North Fork.
“Quite frankly, I believe this is more sellable to the public,” Mr. Russell said. “They’re more within scale within each of the hamlets … Nobody’s going to accept 40 or 50 units. It’s never going to fly.”
The need for affordable housing has been discussed at Southold Town Board meetings in recent years. In September, developer Paul Pawlowski withdrew his proposal to build a controversial affordable housing above retail stores on Main Road in Mattituck.
On Tuesday, Mr. Russell said the Town Board needs to start setting goals and actively working to solve the growing affordable housing crisis no the North Fork.
“At least then we have a metric or benchmark to compare ourselves to,” he said.
The supervisor made similar suggestions at the “State of Greenport Village and Southold Town” in January and said affordable housing would be a priority for the coming year.
Rona Smith, a member of the town’s Housing Advisory Commission, said during Tuesday’s work session that she believes the town should focus on encouraging more rental developments. Affordable home purchases are often too expensive for low-income residents, she added.
Ms. Smith said the Housing Advisory Commission has tried to entice developers to build in Southold and received “virtually no responses.”
High land costs are a side effect of a lack of supply due to preservation efforts, she said, adding the current town zoning code has also hindered efforts to attract affordable housing to the area.
“We almost have to see increased density to see affordable housing … but we have to tread carefully,” she said. “It’s a slippery slope, you need to be really careful.”