Top Stories 2022: Amid housing crisis, voters OK new community housing fund

The proposed Cutchogue Woods project was rejected by Southold Town Board in late August.

Rona Smith of Southold pitched the idea townhouse-style rental units at 15690 Middle Road in Cutchogue in late January, in partnership with developer Georgica Green Ventures, which has developed other workforce housing on the the North Fork 

To move forward,  Cutchogue Woods needed the Town Board to approve a zone change from Agricultural Conservation to Affordable Housing District.But the  board voted 4-2 against the proposal in late August.

The issue highlighted a critical need for affordable housing on the North Fork. In November, voters approved a new 0.5% real estate tax specifically to fund housing solutions on the East End. 

The tax is part of the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul last fall. The town will begin collecting funds in 2023, but before any of that money can be spent, the Town Board must first hold a public hearing on and approve a plan  for how it will be used. Town officials said that plan may take months to finalize.

The housing crisis has left many North Forkers displaced. Aside from a shortage of available housing, locals have also recently been facing pressure from landlords who want to sell their properties or raise rents, forcing many to leave the area.

The North Fork Housing Alliance reported that the number of displaced people requesting its help rose by 7% the last year and the number of people who have sought financial assistance grew 10 %.

Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach of Riverhead reportedly provided 6,400 beds through its emergency winter shelter program across the East End.

Many similar aid organizations have been facing growing demand for their services, which has continued to increase since the outbreak of the pandemic.