State Attorney General Letitia James Tuesday announced $8 million in new funding available to create and expand below-market housing for first-time buyers in eight New York counties, including Nassau and Suffolk. 

The Community Land Trusts Capacity Building Initiative will allow municipalities and counties, through nonprofit Community Land Trusts, or CLTs, to make affordable housing available to buyers who make less than 80 percent of the area median income. 

Standing in front of a home on Radcliffe Road in Island Park rebuilt with CLT funding, James, a Democrat who took office Jan. 1, said: "Housing is a right, not a privilege." She officially launched the Request for Applications alongside County Executive Laura Curran and Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty. 

"While the financial crisis may be behind us, we continue to feel and see the effects of the housing crash each and every day," James said. "There are some programs and resources that fulfill the need for affordable housing temporarily, but we don’t need temporary solutions for a long-term problem. "New Yorkers need real, permanent solutions that allow them to have the stable, economical housing they deserve."

Established in 2017, and now in its second round of grantmaking, the program got a boost of $4.5 million over its first year when $3.5 million in grants was distributed. The awards go to the CLTs to fund startup costs, acquire and renovate distressed properties and also provides training and technical assistance to homeowners.

The attorney general is announcing the program because the new funding comes from 2018 settlements with the Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS to address "the banks’ misconduct that contributed to the housing crisis" in connection with residential mortgage-backed securities,  James' office said in a release. 

Peter Elkowitz, president and CEO of the Long Island Housing Partnership, a 30-year-old nonprofit community land trust based in Hauppauge, said there are 120 people on a waiting list for the houses at below-market rates and the group is accepting more applications. The house on Radcliffe Road cost about $400,000 to build and will be offered for about $230,000 to an eligible buyer. The nonprofit owns the land under the home and leases it to the buyer. 

In the first round of funding, Elkowitz said his group secured grants for 12 properties in Nassau and 11 in Suffolk. 

Curran said Tuesday her administration would seek funding for more affordable housing in Nassau but that it was "premature" to discuss any details about the application.

Applications are due on April 1 and awards are expected to be announced mid-May, according to the attorney general's office. 

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