Habitat for Humanity eyes more local projects with Cutchogue possibly up next

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell plans to reach out to Suffolk County to request the transfer of a Cutchogue property for a donation to Habitat for Humanity, as per a resolution approved by the Town Board on Tuesday. 

According to town records, the property along County Route 48 was taken by Suffolk County after the previous owner failed to pay taxes. The town request will be made under the 72H program, which allows the county to transfer certain parcels to municipalities for transfer to affordable housing projects. 

Habitat for Humanity is already working on a house in the Town of Southold, with plans to start building on a Greenport parcel in coming weeks and to present a family for board approval at the end of May. Lee Silberman, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Long Island, said he met with the town Housing Advisory Commission last week about the property after initially reaching out to see if there are more opportunities to build in town. If the town is able to donate the parcel to Habitat for Humanity, it will be the nonprofit’s fifth build in Southold.

“The Town of Southold has a tremendous affordable housing issue,” Mr. Silberman said. “My understanding is that the county will view the request favorably when they receive the official request from the town, so of course there’s no guarantees, and then I’m hoping that in the future, Habitat can partner with the town to do other affordable housing developments within the town.”

He also offered to Southold Town, along with other towns in the Peconic Bay region, to help advocate for their plans under the recently passed Community Housing Fund, which — if approved via referendum — would add a .5% tax to real estate transfers in those towns to fund affordable housing solutions. 

“The hope is that, with the passage of the new transfer tax, that more money would become available to the towns to acquire land, that they would then be able to donate to Habitat for Humanity of Long Island for us to build affordable homes,” he said. 

Two Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Suffolk and Nassau counties recently merged to become Habitat for Humanity of Long Island, after receiving a $3.75 million grant from Mac­Kenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who has vowed to donate most of her fortune.

“Our hope is that between the merger and this phenomenal gift that we should be able to increase our impact throughout Long Island,” Mr. Silberman said.