Editorial: An issue more important than deer and helicopters

A little over six months ago, we used this editorial space to call for stronger leadership on affordable housing in Southold Town.

At the time, the Town Board had just approved zoning changes that could lead to the building of higher density affordable housing complexes within the town. 

In that Aug. 28 editorial, we urged Supervisor Scott Russell to make affordable rental housing for young professionals a priority of his administration.

Affordable housing — and development in general — are topics that lend themselves to a lot of rhetoric and, as we noted in August, words like “risk,” “hurdles” and “difficult” get thrown around a lot.

We were encouraged to see Mr. Russell — and Councilman Jim Dinizio — stress the importance of affordable rental housing at the supervisor’s State of the Town event last Thursday. It is critical for local families and businesses that our working young people have places to live on the North Fork. Our housing stock needs to consist of more than half-million-dollar homes our children cannot afford. An inventory of reasonably priced rental housing is an essential piece of the modern-day real estate market, but it’s almost nonexistent east of downtown Riverhead, where a pair of recently constructed apartment buildings stand as larger-scale models of what Southold Town needs.

That’s why it was disappointing to learn that a proposal to build 70 affordable rental units on Main Road in Mattituck has been withdrawn in response to community feedback and concerns from the town. While we recognize that this particular plan was not without its problems, we agree with the supervisor when he says the “concept was an excellent one for Southold Town.”

One concern about the Mattituck proposal was that one hamlet and school district would be forced to absorb all the burden of development. We’d argue that the need for affordable rental housing on the North Fork is such that every hamlet should help carry the load. We strongly encourage all of our readers to attend the affordable housing seminar the town is hosting at the Peconic Lane Community Center on Wednesday, March 11, at 6 p.m.

Now is the time to work together toward a solution on this very important issue.