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Southampton decides not to rent out homes

Five houses given by Suffolk County to Southampton Town for its affordable housing program became the source of hard feelings before a vote earlier this month that ultimately approved their use for single-family home ownership rather than rentals.

The homes are in the Riverside area: Four are on Vail Avenue and one is on Old Quogue Road.

Flanders-Riverside-Northampton Civic Association (FRNCA) and other local civic groups have spoken at town board meetings opposing the use of the homes as rentals.

Opponents say that doing so would most likely mean more families with children in the homes but not the additional tax revenue needed to support the public schools and other services.

If sold at affordable housing prices as single-family homes, the properties will be taxed at the fair-market rate.

"If you're going to help a community in distress," said FRNCA president Brad Bender, "the last thing you do is take away more revenue and add more children."

Bender maintained that Riverside is already "rent-laden."

But Lucius Ware, president of the Eastern Long Island chapter of the NAACP, called the decision a "real slap in the face" to allow only home ownership for the properties, and asked the board to reconsider.

In addition, Bonnie M. Cannon, chairwoman of the Southampton Housing Authority, had asked that the vote be delayed until those who live in the area could be alerted to a forum held to elicit comments. The housing authority has held one meeting with residents on the matter, she said.

The request was denied by the board, whose power supersedes the housing authority.

The resolution, brought forth July 10 by Councilman Christopher Nuzzi, with yes votes from fellow Republican Christine Scalera and Conservative James Malone, stipulated that the houses be sold only to homeowners who will live in them. According to the resolution, that was the will of civic groups.

Malone allowed for consideration when he added that the resolution can be amended if new information comes from the community.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, a Democrat, abstained, and Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, an independent, voted no, saying that the time should be taken to talk with residents.

There are seven other affordable houses in the town's program that will go to applicants after a lottery, Cannon said. Those homes are single-family houses for ownership, not rentals.

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