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Nicholas Spangler

Along with my colleague Denise Bonilla, I cover the town of Babylon. My stories and coverage will have an emphasis on issues and developments involving Republic Airport and the incorporated villages of Amityville and Babylon. Story tips are welcome.

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Babylon, like many Long Island towns, faces acute shortage of affordable housing

The Town of Babylon faces an acute affordable

The Town of Babylon faces an acute affordable housing shortage that is unlikely to be solved in the next five years, according to a draft report by a town consultant. (Credit: Daniel Goodrich)

The Town of Babylon faces an acute affordable housing shortage that is unlikely to be solved in the next five years, according to a draft report by a town consultant.

That prediction comes despite town strategies to combat the shortage and about $6 million in federal funds officials anticipate spending on a variety of projects, including construction, demolition and rehabilitation of buildings, community improvements and direct resident aid.

"The amounts we receive don't nearly match the need that is out there," said Susan George, director of the town's Department of Community Development.


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The shortage plays out in the number of town residents who can't afford the homes they are in, the report found. Marietta, Georgia-based WFN Consulting, reported that 33,587 households -- almost half of all those in the town -- are cost-burdened, meaning residents spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing.

That total includes more than half of all residents who rent and more than a quarter of those who own their homes, according to the firm.

Two of the most troubled areas for affordable housing are North Amityville and Wyandanch, where 90 percent and almost 64 percent of residents, respectively, are cost-burdened, according to the firm.

The report, known as a consolidated plan, is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It includes planning and development priorities for the town through 2019.

A final version will be submitted to HUD in November, with the department's response expected in the spring.

A predominance of single-family housing stock and a lack of available open land in Babylon -- conditions common across much of Long Island -- are partly to blame for the town's predicament, developers and housing experts said.

"You can't [immediately] correct something that occurred over a long period of time," said Joseph Sanseverino, assistant vice president of Long Island Housing Partnership, which administers some town housing programs. "It's going to be very difficult to reverse that."

Using federal grant money over the next five years, the town plans to rehabilitate 10 houses, build seven rental units and six houses for ownership, and offer down payment assistance to 45 new homeowners.

Other strategies include trading density bonuses for affordable housing in new developments and expanding the town's stock of rental housing through the permit process for accessory apartments.

"Even though home ownership has gotten somewhat more affordable, it's still out of range of most people," said Jim Morgo, an affordable housing developer and former Suffolk chief deputy county executive.

Nonetheless, "we're providing more affordable housing in many more ways than towns surrounding us," said Ann Marie Jones, Babylon's Planning and Development commissioner.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN BABYLON

The Town of Babylon promotes affordable housing or income-restricted components in new developments it approves. An example of that approach is the the 177-unit Wyandanch Village, which is part of the Wyandanch Rising project. In the village, 121 units have been designated as affordable housing, with one-bedroom apartment rents ranging from $985 for a person earning $29,000 up to $1,525 for a person earning $45,000.

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Eyeing Patchogue's revitalization, Amityville considers space for artists

Amityville Village Hall is shown.

Amityville Village Hall is shown. (Credit: Alexi Knock)

Amityville officials Monday are to consider funding a feasibility study of adding loftlike apartments for artists to live and work in the village.

Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit real estate developer for the arts, would conduct the study and develop the spaces if the village decides to proceed. The company has 36 such projects around the country -- including one in Patchogue. It would charge Amityville $15,000 for the study.

Trustee Nick LaLota said the village board will consider how to proceed at its meeting, possibly spending $7,500 and paying for the rest with $500 donations from residents and business owners. Several commitments are already lined up, he said.

"The neighborhoods they've put their projects in have been revitalized," LaLota said. "These are cultural hubs. ... Should that happen in Amityville, it could be the start of a very good snowball effect."

The Artspace feasibility study includes site visits, along with focus group meetings with bankers, municipal officials and residents, said Wendy Holmes, senior vice president for consulting and strategic partnerships. Proximity to cities, highways and transit is also considered. Amityville meets all of those needs, officials noted in interviews last week.

An Artspace project in Manhattan to open this year received 53,000 applications for 90 spots. All 45 apartments in the $18 million Artspace Patchogue Lofts are leased, and there is a waiting list. That once-troubled village is now hailed as a turnaround success by municipal officials and smart-growth advocates across Long Island, and the Patchogue Lofts was part of the transformation.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri "felt it was a real important piece in his downtown revitalization," said Tom Howard, co-chairman of Amityville's Downtown Revitalization Committee. "They would be a real key piece here."

The committee has identified four properties in or near the downtown Broadway corridor as suitable for redevelopment, he said.

Artspace projects typically rely on a mix of private and public funding, Holmes said. Because some of the public funding is income-limited, most projects are targeted to residents earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income. In Amityville, where median income is $78,009, that would be $46,805.

If the village approves the study, it would likely be completed in early November, Holmes said. If its findings are favorable and the village approves a project, it would take three to five years before new residents move in.

"They're all different types of artists living there: musicians, painters, actors, sculptors," Howard said of the Patchogue project. "These artists will put feet on the street. From there we'll build. It's one step in a process, but it's a major step."

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