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Southampton affordable housing project gets finishing touches before owners move in

Tradespeople are putting the finishing touches on three

Tradespeople are putting the finishing touches on three single-family houses on Bailey Road in Southampton, including this house on Bailey Road on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Credit: Veronique Louis

Southampton Village officials call the three homes under construction on Bailey Road a rare treasure in the Hamptons -- not for their grandeur but for their relative modesty.

The row of two-story Colonials represents the first affordable housing project in Southampton Village, where developers are increasingly razing small existing homes to make way for multimillion-dollar houses, Mayor Mark Epley said.

"This is as important a project as I think we've ever done," he said in an interview.

Tradespeople are putting the finishing touches on the houses before they are transferred to three Southampton Town residents in their 20s or 30s who each won a recent lottery to purchase a house for $306,000, said Curtis Highsmith Jr., director of the Southampton Housing Authority, the agency that managed the project. Southampton Town provided a $50,000 grant toward each purchase, he said.

In the Hamptons' booming post-recession housing market, the homes' market value would each be more than $1 million, Highsmith said.

The Bailey Road development, more than a decade in the making, is nearing completion as town and village officials across the Hamptons raise concerns that year-round residents are being priced out of the area.

Epley said developers have been knocking down decades-old ranch houses in the village and replacing them with mansions that are marketed for $4 million to $8 million.

At the same time, the village's tight-knit year-round community is shrinking, causing school enrollment to decline and fire departments to struggle to find enough volunteers, Epley said.

"All the things that make communities what they are, you lose," Epley said. "On top of it all, you still have a demand for the workforce" that is increasingly commuting from Brookhaven Town and more affordable communities to the west.

Suffolk County obtained three vacant lots on Bailey Road in a 2001 tax default, Highsmith said. Southampton Village officials later obtained the properties and transferred them to the housing authority in 2013, he said.

Southampton architect John Rose designed the cedar-sided, three-bedroom houses. Highsmith said the three buyers were selected from more than 25 entrants in the lottery.

Amani Wingfield, 32, a Southampton native and one of the lottery winners, said she felt blessed in winning the right to buy one of the houses. She said many of her peers left her hometown for jobs or a lower cost of living. If she hadn't found a job as an emergency dispatcher for the village five years ago, she probably would have left, too, she said.

"The cost of living, it's just getting a little ridiculous to a point where people aren't getting paid nearly enough for people to live, for people to stay here," said Wingfield, who is also a volunteer firefighter. "It's getting sadder by the minute."

Wingfield said she has been renting a house from her father, but it's too small for her to eventually raise a family in.

"The fact that the affordable housing project became available, it really came at the best time for me, at this place in my life," she said.

The other lottery winners were a teacher in the William Floyd School District and an employee of Bridgehampton National Bank, Highsmith said.

"This is the face of workforce housing," Highsmith said. "These are residents that easily could have gone to another municipality. We need to do better."

The homes were available only to residents with salaries below thresholds that varied based on family size. For a single person, the cap was $76,300, Highsmith said.

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