For Daniel and Ines Loor, being able to afford a house on Long Island was a dream. The Loors and their three children were renting part of a house in Brentwood. Now, they are looking forward to settling into a renovated three-bedroom house with a lawn in Massapequa.
It’s a home that suits their needs that they probably would not have been able to buy if not for the affordable housing program run by Long Island Housing Partnership.
"It’s a big deal," said Daniel Loor, 35. "We were looking to leave the state, move south like a lot of other people. Housing costs here are through the roof."
The home was appraised at $445,000, Loor said, but the program makes it possible to have a down payment as low as 3%. With a down payment of $7,000, the Loors got financing of about $223,000 toward the agreed-upon price of $230,000. When their move was delayed due to COVID-19 labor-related shortages, the couple used the time to save for closing costs.
Ines Loor, 35, stays home with her children and also has a small home business. The housing partnership adapted the Loors' new house for one of their children, who was born blind and has developmental delays.
The family is happy with their new home. "At first I was looking for rentals, but then I found out about this program," Daniel Loor said. "I know Massapequa. It’s a great place to live."
An ongoing need
Affordable housing is an ongoing concern on Long Island, where home prices are still propped upward at high speed: In December the median home price for Nassau was $645,000, a 6.6% increase over the same period in 2020; and in Suffolk it was $525,000, a 9.4% increase, according to OneKey MLS. This rise has left many working people shut out of the market.
"These are your medical technicians at the hospital, the people who take care of our lawns, the restaurant workers who feed our families, and teachers that teach our kids," said Peter Elkowitz, president of Long Island Housing Partnership, which serves Nassau and Suffolk counties. "We are busier than ever. The demand for affordable housing is off the charts."
Affordable housing can follow a complex set of rules and ratios. Some homes are put into a lottery system, and others are found through county foreclosures and then rehabilitated, but all follow income guidelines for eligibility that vary by local municipality. To be considered, one must have steady employment and enough money for a down payment and closing costs.
There are about 650 affordable rental units in 30 developments that LIHP monitors across Long Island, Elkowitz said. The housing partnership is presently marketing 103 units in seven of them.
Although affordable rent varies by location, one-bedroom apartments typically fetch $1,000 to $1,200, and three-bedrooms go for between $2,000 and $2,900, Elkowitz said. Affordable rents are as important as finding homeownership. In general, Long Island does not have a high number of rentals and tends to be expensive.
For Debra Zimmerman, a human resources assistant, finding a rental in Deer Park last year came just in time. After her father died in 2020, the home she grew up in and lived in as his caretaker was left to her, and needed work that would be expensive. She realized she could not afford to live there without her father’s pension to help pay the costs of keeping the home.
Zimmerman, 58, applied for a rental through the Long Island Housing Partnership, and was soon notified by the housing lottery. She eventually got an apartment at Sutton Landing in Deer Park for $2,085 a month, about $1,000 less than the marketplace price, she said. Her home has an in-unit washer and dryer, a clubhouse, pool and recreational events are held throughout the year. And everything was new.
"It was an answer to a prayer," Zimmerman said, adding that her apartment is indistinguishable from non-affordable housing. "But it is not like I am getting it for free. There are certain criteria I had to meet, including income requirements. But I love it. I pinch myself every day."
According to state law, each municipality must come up with town codes that require builders to include some type of affordable housing for each development over five homes, where 10% must be set aside for affordable housing. In general, towns and builders are embracing it, officials say.
In Mineola, for instance, Lalezarian Properties is proposing to increase affordable apartments in the upscale Morgan Parc building from 27 units to 40 units over the next 18 years in return for an additional 10 years of property tax abatements. The units would be eligible for families making 80% or less of Long Island’s median income, which ranges from $66,450 for one person to $125,000 for a family of eight, according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In Patchogue, affordable housing has become an important part of the village’s transformation into a thriving community.
Copper Beach, a townhome community, is about 50% affordable housing. Art Space on Main Street, a complex for artists, has all 45 units dedicated as affordable rentals. About 160 units in the new River Walk community are also affordable condominiums to purchase. The building is in walking distance to the Long Island Rail Road station and downtown. Because the homes are dotted within the community, and not labeled as affordable, it is not possible to tell which homes are sold at market price and which are not.
"There’s a misconception about affordable housing," says Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, noting that a young couple starting in affordable housing will often move on to marketplace housing in the same community as their incomes grow, and so stay in the village. "People don’t understand the benefits to the community. It has been an astounding success."
John Nelson would agree. He bought a 100-year-old home in the village two years ago under the Long Island Housing Partnership. Once a "zombie house" overrun with vermin and squatters, the home was rehabilitated by the partnership and village. He was able to buy the three-bedroom, 1½-bathroom home, which had been appraised at $368,000, for $215,000.
"I never thought I could afford a house in Patchogue," said Nelson, 31, a lifelong village resident who is on the support staff at Sayville School District. "I was renting and saving up, and looking at a lot of foreclosures to remodel, but I just couldn’t afford what I was looking for."
"A lot of my classmates left Long Island because they couldn’t afford to live here," he said. "I love Long Island, and it was my dream to afford a house here."
The Long Island Housing Partnership is monitoring 650 affordable rental units in 30 developments across Long Island and marketing 103 units. Builders also must set aside 10% of their homes for affordable housing if more than five homes are being built in a development. An earlier version of this story contained incomplete guidelines.
Are you eligible?
In most towns and other municipalities on Long Island, the income for eligibility homeownership is 80% of Annual Median Income (AMI). Area median income fluctuates according to town codes, but is about $72,750 for a single person, $83,150 for two people and $93,950 for three.
Prospective homeowners need to obtain a mortgage and cover the down payment and closing costs. Organizations such as Long Island Housing Partnership offer down payment assistance through partnerships with other organizations, and also offer financial counseling.
Renters are required to make enough income so they can afford to pay 30% of that income toward rent.
Rules on resale are based on years owning the home, which must be sold as affordable housing, not at market price.
— STACEY ALTHERR