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Fishers Island residents request piece of potential affordable housing fund

Fishers Island civic leaders highlighted a need for affordable housing at a Town Board meeting last Wednesday, emphasizing a desire for involvement in Southold’s housing solution plan.

“There are people on Fishers Island who definitely need support and housing and we are concerned this fund may not actually reach them,” said community leader George de Menil.

The Fishers Island Community Board “looked carefully at the law,” and outlined several recommendations for the Town Board to consider if a half-percent transfer tax for housing solutions is approved by voters in November.

The housing advisory board established with the fund should include a Fishers Island representative, said civic leader Richard Miller. He suggested, on behalf of the community group, using the fund to cover real estate tax abatements for those who qualify. 

“It’s much simpler, it’s quicker, and it would get money into the right hands, deserving hands, sooner,” he said. 

He also asked whether there would be direct subsidies of rental costs for qualified residents and said Walsh Park, which maintains 27 affordable housing units on Fishers Island, should be eligible for any public-private partnerships with the town. 

Some town land on the island could be used for affordable housing as well. “It’s possible that land could be turned over, town land, for affordable housing purposes and simply having the town reimburse itself out of our share of the monies that would be in this fund,” Mr. Miller said.

“We’re not interested here on Fishers Island and have no inclination whatsoever to discriminate according to race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender preference, any of those things. But we do want to give a preference to people with an EMT qualification or maybe a public school teacher, or maybe even someone with other critical skills such as someone who can repair telephone poles during a storm,” he added. 

Town Board member Jill Doherty, who is a liaison for the housing board, said the town has a lot of the same questions but emphasized that Fishers Island will be kept in the loop. 

“We’ll keep in touch with Fishers Island,” she said. “They won’t be forgotten.”