Residents of East Hampton Town’s first affordable housing condominium complex are finally expected to move in this weekend following nearly 15 months of delays tied to air-quality concerns.
The town hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony in December 2019 heralding the completion of the 12-unit "manor house"-style complex, the first of its kind in the town’s affordable housing program. The move-in dates for the owner-occupied units were then delayed after air testing revealed volatile organic compounds that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance levels emanating from the units’ basements.
Now, following adjustments made to the units’ HVAC systems, those contaminants are at acceptable or undetectable levels, according to a Feb. 18 report from the Bohemia-based FPM Group.
Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that off-gassing of materials is common in newly constructed homes but added that "we felt, particularly since the town was building this project and it was an affordable housing project, that we wanted to be absolutely sure there weren’t any issues."
The town remains committed to expanding affordable housing opportunities as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the South Fork housing crunch, Van Scoyoc said. The town has several other projects in the works and in the future could look to developing pre-fabricated units as one way to speed up the process, he said.
"I don’t believe we’ll be able to alleviate the problem, but we certainly can and need to address it," Van Scoyoc said
The town will allow residents to move into their homes this week prior to closing on the units, said East Hampton housing director Tom Ruhle. The town is awaiting a determination from the state attorney general’s office on an amendment to the project’s offering plan disclosing the contaminants.
The occupants would not be charged rent by the town, which still owns the units, but would be responsible for common charges, utilities and a prorated share of property taxes until the closings, according to the town’s occupancy agreement.
To rectify the air quality issue, the town paid for the materials and the contractors — a cost Ruhle said is still being tallied — and the contractor, JNS Contracting LLC of Wading River, performed the remediation work at no cost.
The below-market-rate prices — ranging from $126,835 for the one-bedroom units to $267,850 for the three-bedroom condos — made the wait more than worth it, residents said.
Christopher Walsh, a reporter with The East Hampton Star, a local newspaper, plans to move into his unit this weekend. It will be an upgrade after formerly spending years in cramped New York City apartments, he said.
"I’m 54 years old, and homeownership always seemed to be getting further out of reach," he said. "I feel blessed."
Prospective resident and Montauk native Lauren Maldonado said she is grateful for the opportunity, although it’s meant she and her husband haven’t been able to give their current landlord, a family member, a move-out date.
"We’ve been hanging on for two years because obviously nothing’s come through that’s been a better offer," said Maldonado, 34, an administrator at a nonprofit. "There’s been nothing like this for us."