As it prepares a broader report on ways to try to contain education costs, the Long Island Regional Planning Council Monday was planning to recommend supporting affordable housing options as a means of increasing school districts' tax base.
Michael White, executive director of the council, provided part of a draft on a proposal that calls on the education community "to actively work to support development of workforce housing options which include a variety of types and prices, specifically advancing the development of rental and multiunit housing, which have been demonstrated to be tax positive to school districts."
"Lack of housing options on Long Island constrains our economic growth," White said.
There has been a concern over the years among school districts and communities that multi-housing would be a drain on school budgets and would add large numbers of students to classrooms.
John Cameron, chairman of the planning council, said many multifamily housing proposals "get killed on the issue of property taxes."
Such developments, he said, "are not the negative drain on schools that's been generated in some of the dialogue out there." He said having the education community publicly support such developments would be a huge boost in changing perceptions.
But some educators who are on the planning council's 20-member K-12 Education Working Group were hesitant to say there was "consensus" on draft language that the council circulated Monday. Saying some details still had to be worked out, they were nevertheless supportive of the concept.
Lorraine Deller, executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, said White's statement was "premature." She said she hadn't heard discussion on the particular wording of the housing goal.
Deller added her desire for more discussion did not mean she rejected the concept. "Workforce housing is something my association has been interested in. My assumption was at the next meeting [of the work group], we would work our way through this and come up with a recommendation to pass on to the council as a whole."
Gary Bixhorn, chief operating officer at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, said he expected the work group would "come to consensus around the statement, after some modifications. Certainly, there's a recognition workforce housing is a tremendous need on Long Island and school districts need to be involved in the discussion, and they have a critical role in promoting housing options on Long Island."
Henry L. Grishman, Jericho schools superintendent and work group member, supported workforce housing, ranking it up there with "apple pie and sliced bread." He said affordable housing options "should be a priority to keep Long Island viable for the future."