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Top Stories 2020: Vineyard View lottery snafu leads to confusion, heartbreak

The first lottery for an affordable housing development in Southold Town in nearly 15 years was voided after officials learned that an administrative error kept some of the applicants out of the initial drawing.

Conifer Realty, the developers for the 50-unit Greenport rental project, said a fair housing plan adopted for the property using state and federal regulations required them to draw the names of every single applicant for a lottery to be valid, so a second lottery was held.

“We deeply regret this unfortunate mistake and any inconvenience it may have caused. Again, we sincerely apologize for this error,” Conifer Realty officials wrote in a post on the Vineyard View website. “We thank the community for your patience and understanding as we fully investigated and worked with appropriate stakeholders on a resolution plan.”

For nearly 90 minutes on Sept. 8, hopeful applicants pursuing this rare opportunity in the Town of Southold watched on Facebook Live as each of their names were called to establish a priority order for housing and the initial waiting list as apartments open back up in the years to come. 

While just 315 people applied before the first deadline, Vineyard View decided to open the application process back up for a second drawing, expanding the number of names entered into the raffle drum to 535.

Robert Lampher, executive vice president of portfolio management at Conifer Realty, said in August that the enrollment period was reopened in order for the company to fairly address a “community perception that the lottery may not have included everybody that it should [have].” He said they consulted with a state oversight agency before making that decision.

Vineyard View has 14 one-bedroom apartments, 22 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units. There are two income-based price points for the units and in order to qualify for the New York State of Opportunity project an applicant cannot make more than 60% of the area median income for Suffolk County. 

The first residents began moving into the new apartments in October.