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Affordable housing fund bill passes State Assembly, Senate

The first in a number of critical steps necessary to establishing a funding stream for affordable housing has passed the New York State Assembly and State Senate.

The legislation is similar to the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) started in 1999 using a special tax to provide money to preserve open spaces and water quality improvement projects. Now, what’s being dubbed “Community Housing Funds,” would receive money from a 0.5 percent real estate tax paid by property buyers.

The bill passed awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

Then each of the five East End towns would have the option to sign on, subject to a mandated referendum.

“The lack of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., who sponsored the legislation.

He cited difficulties local employers have in hiring and retaining workers because of housing costs; housing costs forcing locals to leave the area; and traffic congestion from “trade parades” caused by workers commuting to East End jobs.

“There is no one solution to this problem,” Mr. Thiele said, adding that the legislation would be “a meaningful tool that can make a difference by providing housing opportunities.”

Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said he has long been dedicated to make Long Island more affordable and praised the legislation for opening the door to doing so.

“This legislation will enable towns with the consent of local voters to create a new fund for affordable housing for first-time homeowners.”

He predicted it would go a along way to creating a more affordable future and better quality of life for local residents.

While the CPF money has slacked off in a slow real estate market on Shelter Island in the past year or two, money has still been generated and a similar fund would give a boost to the need for affordable housing on the East End, the assemblyman said.

He estimated that, if implemented, the funds could generate approximately $20 million for community housing throughout the East End.

Money from the proposed housing fund could provide:

• Financial assistance to first-time home buyers.

• Production of community housing that would be either sold or rented.

• Financial assistance to a public/private partnership that could include employee housing.

• Rehabilitation of existing structures that could be used for community housing.

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