Affordable housing proposed in Farmingdale

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A nonprofit Farmingdale group is planning what it believes is a novel redevelopment project it expects to be groundbreaking for all of Long Island.

Officials from the Greater Farmingdale Community Land Trust (CLT), founded in 2008, plan to build a 100 percent affordable housing development for new residents, including young professionals, who they say can help revitalize downtown.

The village plans to lease a large parking lot on South Front Street, between Main Street and the Long Island Rail Road station, to CLT for the construction, said Mayor Ralph Ekstrand.

"To revitalize our downtown, we have to keep the youth on Long Island," he said. "The youth are the ones who walk, shop downtown, take trains to the city, eat in restaurants."

Census figures show Long Island's population of 25- to 34-year-olds declined 12 percent between 2000 and 2010, due in part to housing costs that have outpaced wage increases and a limited supply of rental units.

The problem hit home, Ekstrand said, when his kids, now aged 28 and 32, could not afford down payments on a home. So, as mayor, he has led efforts to make Farmingdale a regional leader in higher-density, transit-oriented development. Four developments are under way near the train station, including mixed-use buildings and apartments.

The key, Ekstrand said, is affordable housing. Developments such as Artspace in Patchogue and the Village Lofts in Hempstead Village provided some affordable housing, but as a whole, Long Island's attempts have been minimal, Ekstrand said.

Since 2009, state law has required new construction of five or more units to include 10 percent affordable housing. Ekstrand said that is not enough.

"Hello, New York State, we're advocating a better way to do it," Ekstrand said of the development, which will only offer affordable housing. The number of units and their cost have not been set.

In a shared equity arrangement, CLT will sell new homes while the village retains the land title, allowing the price to be below market rate.

Some residents grumbled about changes the construction might bring.

Retiree Joe Carosella said he worried about traffic. The former member of the Downtown Revitalization Committee said he waits through two or three cycles of traffic lights to reach Main Street at rush hour. "All of those projects are only going to make it worse," he said.

But he acknowledged the need for growth.

Eric Alexander, of Vision Long Island, said while he was skeptical of how the plan would be implemented, it is a great concept.

"Housing land trusts are an approach that have worked successfully off of Long Island but haven't been built here in any prominent way to date."

Chuck Gosline, CLT's co-founder and a village planning board member, said the group is seeking private donations, bank loans and government grants.

"We believe if we can start the first project, people will see it works," he said.

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