Report: LI's young adult workforce in 'demographic collapse'

Alexander Roberts, ex. dir. of Community Housing Innovations, delivers a report about the decline in 25 to 34 year-olds in wealthy enclaves on Long Island and Westchester because of a lack of housing options. Roberts was joined by housing advocates and others as he calls on NYS Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to enforce housing laws. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

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The young adult workforce on Long Island is in "demographic collapse," especially in communities with the most expensive housing, a housing services and advocacy group said Tuesday.

Alexander Roberts, executive director of Community Housing Innovations, said the nonprofit group's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data for those ages 25 to 34 has a regional aspect, with the same situation showing in Westchester County statistics.

"This should be a wake-up call to all of the Long Island exclusive communities to tell them the world has changed," he said. "Their children no longer want to be driving six miles to get to a supermarket. They want to have night life. They like to walk. They like to bike."

Roberts said he and others will seek a meeting with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to request an analysis of whether local communities are adhering to the Long Island Workforce Housing Act, a 2008 state law requiring creation of affordable housing on the Island.

The law requires that 10 percent of any development of five units or more be affordable to households with incomes of up to 130 percent of Long Island's median income. For a family of four, that is $138,000 annually.

Mitch Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, who attended the housing group's news conference, said he plans to join Roberts in seeking a meeting with Schneiderman.

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"Unfortunately, there are too many places on Long Island where building multifamily housing is not allowed. There's no zoning for it," Pally said. "We hope the attorney general's office will assist us in determining those areas and [provide] remedies for it."

Roberts called for "inclusionary zoning for Long Island, both for equity reasons and to preserve the economic health and balance" of the region during the news conference in Great Neck Plaza.

A spokeswoman for Schneiderman's office declined to comment Tuesday.

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Community Housing Innovations, based in White Plains, is the largest provider of housing for the homeless on Long Island and the second-largest in Westchester, Roberts said.

The group's report found the population of young adults ages 25 to 34 increased 2.76 percent nationwide from 2000 to the Census Bureau's 2007-11 American Community Survey. During that period, Nassau County saw a 12.43 percent decline in that age group, while Suffolk County showed a 12.74 percent decline and Westchester County a 12.83 percent loss.

In the three counties, the report said the greatest population losses of the young adults occurred "in the least diverse communities with the most expensive housing, which happen to also be those that have almost no affordable multifamily housing."

According to the report, Kings Point had the highest percentage loss of 25- to 34-year-olds (58 percent), followed by Westhampton, a hamlet in Southampton Town, (57 percent). Kings Point officials could not be reached Tuesday.

Frank Zappone, Southampton Town deputy supervisor, said he has not seen the report but its conclusion "doesn't really come as a great surprise. It's a problem we're aware of." He said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has made "affordable workforce housing" a top priority.

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The report found Oyster Bay hamlet had a 51 percent loss of 25- to 34-year-olds.

"Oyster Bay Town has done its part to provide affordable housing for young people in a manner consistent with our suburban way of life through the next-generation housing ordinance," Supervisor John Venditto said. "Having said that, residents of the Town of Oyster Bay do not favor urban development of any kind or nature."

Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, said despite the report's statistics, "there is progress . . . 25 communities have either built or approved 'smart growth' projects," while another 20 have plans in the works.

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