Panel: Young LIers need affordable rentals

Long Island Association president Kevin Law (Dec. 6, Long Island Association president Kevin Law (Dec. 6, 2010) Photo Credit: Ed Betz, 2010

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Aaron Ankudavich just wants a legal, affordable apartment where he can walk to a lively downtown.

But the 21-year-old Stony Brook University student from West Islip fears he will find no such thing on Long Island when he graduates next year. Decent rentals, he said, "are so few and far between that I don't think I'd be able to afford one anyway."

Long Island's lack of affordable housing for young people such as Ankudavich was the focus of a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Real Estate Institute at Stony Brook.

The Island is suffering "a brain drain and a birth dearth," Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, told the audience of about 100. During the 2000s, the Island lost nearly 129,000 residents between the ages of 25 and 44, and nearly 52,000 under age 10, according to LIA figures.

"We need to be looking at investing in our downtowns to make them more attractive, to keep some of our young talent here," Law said.

Developers can get financing to build multifamily rentals on Long Island because demand is so high, said Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute.

However, builders often face community opposition to multifamily projects, with residents fearing that the new homes will lower property values or add children to schools, he said.

"Many people on Long Island see them, unfortunately, as a threat to their lifestyle," Pally said. "It does not have to be a threat."

A 2009 study by the LIA found that multifamily housing in Nassau and Suffolk counties has not increased school taxes.

James Coughlan, a principal with Tritec Real Estate, described the warm welcome his firm received for its plans to construct 1,400 rentals, a hotel, retail and office space near Dulles Airport in Virginia. Officials provided a sewer line, power substation and traffic interchange, he said.

By contrast, its proposal for 291 rentals in downtown Patchogue was met with litigation, he said. A suit blocking the project was dismissed last month.

"That approval process was much more cantankerous and much more angst-driven," he said.

Panelist Lee Koppelman, director of the university's Center for Regional Policy Studies, said Island residents' reaction to development is all but unchanged since the 1960s.

During a break in the discussion, Ankudavich had this to say about his housing prospects: "I don't have high hopes."

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