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Board discusses affordable housing proposal, supervisor says it’s up to voters

03/01/2019 5:33 AM |

Town Board members discussed a proposal that would provide affordable housing assistance in the five East End towns through money raised from the Community Preservation Fund.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) proposed the Town Community Housing Fund in early February. The fund would provide financial assistance to first-time homebuyers, create opportunities for owning and rental housing, rehabilitating existing buildings for community housing, counseling and education impact payment to local school districts under the proposed legislation.

It would be paid for through a 0.5 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax.

There is already a 2 percent real estate transfer tax paid into the Community Preservation Fund, which allows towns to purchase and preserve open space.

The new proposal has bipartisan support, Mr. Russell said, but the decision to create the fund would be up to town boards and needs to be offered as a local referendum to be decided by voters.

“I think you’re going put this on the ballot and the public is going to vote for it 2-1,” Mr. Russell said. “I’m not in a position to say I oppose it or I support it because ultimately, it’s up to the voters. But the reality is, there is just no other perceivable way to create financial resources to promote affordable housing.”

Board member Louisa Evans said after reading through a fact sheet on the project, she’s concerned with the town administering affordable housing.

“When you’re partnering with another group, which is one of the things they want to do, I think that’s great,” she said. “But to have the town purchase property to move affordable houses on, and then the town becomes the administrator of that project … I think that adding that bureaucracy to the town is not right.”

When it comes to affordable housing, Mr. Ruland said, Southold is practically out of options — so a new concept should always be considered.

Mr. Russell said he plans to discuss the fund with the town Housing Commission. A final decision has not been made. Mr. Russell said the affordable housing issue has moved to the forefront of Southold in recent years.

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Photo caption: (Left to right) Board members Jill Doherty, Louisa Evans and Bill Ruland at Tuesday’s work session. (Kate Nalepinski photo)

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