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Long Islanders concerned about high housing costs, finds poll

Patricia Romero, a young professional, was photographed outside

Patricia Romero, a young professional, was photographed outside her Hicksville office, Dec. 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

More than three-quarters of Long Islanders said they are concerned family members may leave the Island because of high housing costs, and a record 56 percent said they are "somewhat or very likely" to leave in the next five years -- the highest response in the decade since the Long Island Index first asked that question, according to its latest survey.

Sixty percent said they have at least some difficulty meeting monthly rent or mortgage payments, and 37 percent of those ages 18 to 34 said they live with family members, a record high for the survey, released Wednesday.

The Long Island Index -- which does research to assess attitudes on regional issues and produces data-based reports, in addition to polling residents -- is a project of the nonprofit Rauch Foundation. The questions about housing-cost concerns have been asked in eight other surveys since 2004.

The survey showed some signs of optimism. For the first time since the 2008 recession, the number of residents who said things are heading in the right direction in their county topped those who thought otherwise, 46 percent to 40 percent.

Other highlights:

58 percent of Long Islanders support changes to zoning laws increasing height limits in some downtowns to allow apartments above stores.

52 percent said they could imagine themselves or immediate family members living in an apartment, condo or town house in a local downtown.

68 percent supported building multilevel parking in local downtowns.

The telephone survey of 800 Long Island residents across all age groups, plus another 250 of those ages 18 to 34, was conducted from Aug. 13 to Oct. 16, with calls both to landlines and cellphones. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Ann Golob, director of the index, said despite concerns about high housing costs, she is "hopeful" about the support shown for alternative housing options.

"I feel like we can see the cusp of the future, and something that starts to feel like it is significantly changing," Golob said.

Leonie Huddy, director of the Stony Brook University Center for Survey Research and author of the Long Island Index poll, had a similar observation.

"I was struck by the trend, seen in several different questions, toward increased support for alternative housing options," Huddy wrote in an email. The changes aren't dramatic, she said, "but they point in the same direction: away from Long Island as [a] place dominated solely by single-family homes."

Young adults, those with low incomes and those who do not own their homes said they support those changes at higher percentages than those in other groups, Huddy said.

The situation is "especially desperate for young people," she said, noting the record percentage in that age group who said they still live with a family member.

"That translates into a lot of parents who are still footing the bill for their adult children," Huddy said.

Among the survey respondents was Patricia Romero, 24, who works full-time at a Bethpage Federal Credit Union branch and is completing her final semester at Stony Brook University. She lives with her family in Central Islip.

"I couldn't afford living on my own comfortably," Romero said.

Romero said she probably will move away from the Island in the next five years. She is considering moving to Queens, and anticipates sharing costs with a friend.

"Everything is closer, proximity-wise," Romero said. "There's more going on throughout the week, versus only weekends." She also likes that city living means being able to walk to events "versus always taking your car to get anywhere."

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