Suffolk may offer seized homes to Sandy victims

Shaun Johnson, 23, of Mastic, with his sister Shaun Johnson, 23, of Mastic, with his sister Didi, 4, sorts through clothing, toys, cleaning supplies and other items at a giveaway at Osprey Park in Mastic Beach for Long Islanders affected by Sandy. The donations were collected and brought there by a group from New Orleans who survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (Nov. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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Suffolk County Legis. Kate Browning is looking into the possibility of housing residents displaced by superstorm Sandy on 10 properties the county agreed to transfer to Mastic Beach for low- to middle-income families.

As part of the effort to help storm victims, Browning (WF-Shirley) said officials might also allow owners of storm-ravaged homes on the Mastic Beach waterfront to swap land and relocate to higher ground while the county restores their former properties, which would be preserved and protected as open space.

"They may choose to rebuild back on the water, but we want to make sure they have options. They have to find a place to live or rebuild their property on the waterfront," Browning said.

Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi said he supports the proposal. "This is a great idea because it . . . brings in tax revenue for the village, which turns out great."

Most of the homes would be offered to displaced low- to middle-income families, in line with the original plan for the properties.

Last month, Suffolk County announced it would transfer the 10 properties, which had been seized and scheduled for auctioning, to Mastic Beach for use as affordable housing.

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Through the county's 72-h program, which seeks to rehabilitate tax-defaulted properties, Habitat for Humanity was to partner with the village to restore seven of the blighted parcels, county officials said. The Long Island Housing Partnership was to develop three parcels.

Under Browning's plan, displaced residents with lower incomes could move into the Habitat homes, while families with higher incomes could occupy homes rehabbed by the housing partnership. Residents would live in the homes permanently.

Browning said there is also a chance more county parcels could be transferred to the village as the county, Habitat and the Mastic Beach all want to provide more affordable housing.

Habitat and county officials said the proposal to allow displaced residents to occupy the seized homes will not provide an immediate solution.

Vivian Becker, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County, said the homes are six to eight months from completion. And Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, said the county would "take the plan under consideration."

County officials announced the plan to give the seized properties to the village last month, after the county legislature approved the transfer in September.

Becker and county officials said that whether the seized sites are used by storm-displaced families or not, officials still plan to provide new homes for 10 first-time home buyers with incomes below 80 percent of the area median income, or $86,000 for a family of four and $68,800 for a family of two.

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