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Nassau IDA seeks to encourage affordable housing construction

Nassau IDA member Richard Kessel speaks at the

Nassau IDA member Richard Kessel speaks at the board's March 28 meeting in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency is looking to grow the county’s stock of affordable housing.

The IDA, which has the authority to grant businesses tax assistance in exchange for job retention or creation, is looking for a consultant to help the agency work with private developers that can build and operate affordable multifamily and transit-oriented housing developments. 

“You can’t attract new businesses without creating more affordable housing,” said IDA chairman Richard Kessel. The goal, he said, is to help retain the county’s population of younger, millennial-aged workers, which will add to the area’s tax base. “If you’re creating more affordable housing, it makes it easier to attract those new businesses.”

The consultant would work with the agency to review its procedures regarding benefits for multifamily projects, evaluate tax benefit applications for affordable housing projects and look at redevelopment opportunities at county-owned sites.

Kessel said that developing affordable, transit-oriented projects has been a goal of the new administration of County Executive Laura Curran, and the IDA is part of a “cooperative effort” that will require input from local municipal leaders, school boards and developers.

A consultant could recommend that developers include some affordable housing in multifamily projects seeking benefits, and that the county pursue developments that are mostly if not all affordably priced.

“There’s been reticence in the past to be aggressive and initiate these kind of projects,” Kessel said.

Developer groups applauded the IDA’s effort.

“The suburban mindset of past generations is evolving, and Nassau’s next generation of property owners are looking for downtowns with mixed use,” said Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, a real estate developers’ lobbying group.

Mitch Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, said the effort by the IDA is “commendable” and resembles efforts by the towns of Brookhaven and Islip.

“It’s the type of development that millennials now want, and it’s the type of development that millennials now expect,” he said.

Pally added that while communicating with developers and identifying potential county-owned sites is important, zoning is a consideration that would need to be taken up by government agencies.

“The worst thing you can make a developer go through is a change of zone here,” he said.

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