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Huntington looks to tighten affordable housing laws downtown

The Huntington Town Board is suggesting sweeping changes

The Huntington Town Board is suggesting sweeping changes to its Affordable Housing Code to increase the number of lower-cost new rentals in the downtown area and assist young, first-time home buyers. Feb. 8, 2017 Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

The Huntington Town Board is suggesting sweeping changes to its Affordable Housing Code to increase the number of lower-cost new rentals downtown and assist young, first-time home buyers.

Under the current regulations, the only time town officials can require a developer to include affordable units in a housing project is when they request a zoning change, town board member Tracey Edwards said. With surveys indicating young people want to live in the downtown area, town officials noticed they were missing an opportunity to create affordable housing and needed to update language in the town code to require it.

“What our affordable housing code missed is that most of these apartments are being created in the village, but aren’t affordable,” Edwards said. “These changes provide an opportunity for young people to live on their own, close to their family. We want our millennials to stay in Huntington.”

Officials have offered four components to the proposed changes:

  • Adding language mandated by the Long Island Workforce Housing Act, which states if five or more units are proposed and the developer requests an increase in density or other incentive, the planning board can require that at least 10 percent be established as affordable housing at the new site or elsewhere. In lieu of affordable units, the developer can contribute to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that will go to help first-time home buyers.
  • Requiring developers with mixed-use plans that include apartments on the second floor of commercial district buildings to construct one affordable unit for every five units built. If the developer builds fewer than five units, it will pay into the town’s Affordable Housing Trust and Agency Account to help first-time home buyers.
  • Tightening existing code language to make sure affordable units equal market rate units in quality of furnishing, features, location and appearance.
  • Requiring residents of affordable housing to file a disclosure statement certifying that the unit is their main residency, that they have not transferred it to another person or rented a portion of the unit to another person.

Of particular concern to Edwards, who co-sponsored the legislation with town board member Susan Berland, was making sure affordable units are similarly constructed as other apartments, Edwards said.

“We want to make sure any affordable housing unit that is constructed is substantially the same as those are market rate,” she said. “Now that language will be in the code.”

Richard Koubek, vice president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, which helped draft the changes, called the legislation a “terrific” step forward.

“This means in a hot rental place like downtown Huntington, where you have young people who want to stay there, want to live there, now they’ll have that opportunity to pick up an affordable rental, which you can’t find now,” Koubek said.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING RECONSIDERATION

The Huntington Town Board has rescheduled its planned Tuesday meeting when they are tio schedule a public hearing about changes to its affordable housing regulations. The meeting has been moved to March 21, town officials said Monday. The rescheduled town board meeting at 2 p.m. in Town Hall, 100 Main St., Hungtington. A public hearing on the changes likely will be set for April, officials said.

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