Robert Carpenter's mother leaped out of her seat and hugged her son, overjoyed that his name was the first called in the recent affordable-housing lottery in the Town of Southampton.
"I'm in a daze right now," Carpenter, 30, said as he stood at the Hampton Bays Senior Center, where the lottery was held last week. He works at Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue and lives with his parents. His mother, Diane, works for the town.
In a town known for its million-dollar mansions, there are those of more modest means looking to obtain the American dream of home ownership. Community leaders, housing advocates and many who work in the town said affordability has been a long-standing problem and is the reason the lottery is so important.
"Finding affordable housing that works for a middle- to low-income [family] is very, very hard, if not impossible," Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.
The program, jointly operated by the Southampton Housing Authority and the nonprofit Long Island Housing Partnership, will build 11 three-bedroom homes on plots of varying size donated by Suffolk County. Seven of the lots are in Flanders, two in East Quogue and one each in Noyack and North Sea.
Fifty-five names were called, with the first 11 people chosen assured of a home as long as they meet eligibility requirements. If any do not, the next person on the list will be notified. Military veterans would have been given first choice, but none qualified for this lottery, officials said.
Preference was given to those who work or live in the town, and all applicants must be first-time home buyers.
The Energy Star-certified houses will cost $152,300 each. They will have three bedrooms and two baths, as well as full basements and appliances. Homeowners must pay 3 percent down and be able to obtain a mortgage. Monthly costs, including taxes and insurance, total $1,297.
Prospective owners must have a minimum annual income of $30,000, with a maximum annual income of $60,200 for one person to $113,500 for eight people or more.
"There are people here with good jobs, but they can't afford to live here," Housing Authority president Bonnie Cannon said of the high rents and home prices in the affluent town.
They include Julio Trujillo, 39, and Martha Duque, 35, who have three children. Trujillo works at an extermination company and Duque cleans the Westhampton post office. They pay $1,100 a month for a small three-bedroom house with no living room. The couple, who were 10th on the list, had talked about moving back to Colombia for the winter, but now can set down real roots in the town Trujillo has worked in for two decades.
"This means a lot," he said. "Twenty years I have been working here. This is better than the real lottery."