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Gloomy economy keeps LIers from moving

One expert says people who want to move

One expert says people who want to move can’t find buyers. Gil Niland, above, has been trying to sell his waterfront Babylon home for three years, dropped the price 40 percent and still has no takers. (Oct. 27, 2011) Photo Credit: Chris Ware

More Long Island households than usual are staying put in their homes rather than moving, new census data show -- and the gloomy economy and high-cost housing are likely a big part of the reason.

The latest American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau shows one in four households here moved into their current home between 2005 and 2010. That's down from a rate of almost one in three moving in the five years preceding the 1990 and 2000 census reports.

"People are moving less," said Christopher Jones, vice president of research for the Regional Plan Association, an advisory group for the Long Island-New York City metropolitan area, "because they can't find a buyer for their house or don't have another job location that they would be interested in moving to."

So-called residential mobility rates are watched by government officials, planners and demographers because they can offer clues about new community trends, such as seniors "aging in place" -- also a likely contributor to Long Island's lower mobility. The rates can also suggest new problems that may arise -- such as declining town and state revenue from mortgage taxes.

It's hard to move when you can't sell your home. Gil Niland has had his 3,500-square-foot waterfront home in Babylon on the market for three years, even knocking about 40 percent off the original $1-million list price. It took only a month to sell his last house eight years ago. This time, he said, house hunters have been turned off by the property's $28,000 in annual property taxes.

"For it not to sell at $639,000, something is awry," said Niland, who wants to downsize.

Census figures suggest relocating is easier elsewhere. In New York State 34.6 percent of households had been in their current home for less than five years, said the latest American Community Survey. The national rate was 40 percent.

"Long Island, like many areas of the country, has not been creating as many jobs as it once did," said Christopher Niedt, academic director at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. "If a region isn't creating attractive jobs . . . it can also dampen residential mobility."

In Huntington Town, Supervisor Frank Petrone recently extended the time lines for completing several capital projects from two years to three or four, in large part because he's not getting the mortgage tax revenues he once did.

"We get a little, little fraction of the New York State mortgage tax receipts," Petrone said. "This could be millions of dollars every year in the budget."

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