Tackling the affordable housing problem in Southold

Continuing to struggle with Southold Town’s lack of affordable housing, members of the Housing Advisory Commission have requested the Town Board’s help enacting strategies outlined in the town’s comprehensive plan.

“We need your leadership,” commission member Rona Smith told the Town Board during Tuesday morning’s work session. “It is paper and it sits on a shelf. Unless we do something, we are not going to reach our goals.”

Completed in April 2012, the housing chapter of the town’s 2020 master plan outlines shortfalls and offers suggestions to bolster the amount of affordable housing. Proposed fixes include everything from building new reasonably priced apartment units to changing zoning regulations to allow existing storefronts and private homes to create accessory apartments.

Although an attempt was made two years ago to build a new affordable housing complex in Southold Town, that proposal generated interest from just one developer, whose bid was not accepted.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Housing Advisory Commission renewed the push to build more affordable housing units and recommended meeting with developers to discuss the feasibility of the plan before putting the project out to bid.

“I’m more than supportive of going out to bid again,” said Supervisor Scott Russell.

The commission also recommended the town offer an incentive to home and business owners to construct or repurpose areas of existing buildings by offering tax breaks on up to 50 percent of renovation costs. The incentive would be capped at $25,000 and distributed over five years, according to the commission’s plan.

The town already has parameters in place for private owners to build and rent affordable housing; however, Mr. Russell said that in order to offer tax breaks the town would need the go-ahead from the state. He suggested the commission reach out to state Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to discuss the plan further.

“I would love the idea [of a tax credit],” Mr. Russell said. “It might be something other towns could be looking into, too. I don’t think it is insurmountable, but it might take some time.”

Commission members said they will begin work on the project and continue to work with the board to implement the master plan.

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