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Smithtown draws winner in first affordable housing lottery

Neil Coleman, lower left, of Ronkonkoma, wins a

Neil Coleman, lower left, of Ronkonkoma, wins a Smithtown housing lottery Tuesday at town hall. Credit: James Carbone

A 25-year-old union electrician from Ronkonkoma won Smithtown’s first workforce housing lottery on Tuesday, earning first shot out of 39 applicants to buy a three-bedroom San Remo home for $350,100, which is between $100,000 and $200,000 off the market rate.

“Words can’t describe how surprised I am,” Neil Coleman said. Coleman said he was living with his girlfriend’s parents and had been house-hunting for a year and a half, a “daunting” experience because of Long Island’s high housing costs. Should Coleman pass the final eligibility review from the town’s partner, nonprofit developer Long Island Housing Partnership, he and his girlfriend and his Australian shepherd, Oakley, could move in by the end of the year.

Town officials implemented a workforce housing policy in 2017 mandating that developers of housing projects with five or more units set aside 10 percent of the units as workforce housing. Purchasers’ and renters’ income cannot exceed 130 percent of area median income, or about $136,550 for a family of three, according to HUD. Sale and and resale price of the units are also pegged to median income. Landlords must demonstrate that renters spend no more than 33 percent of their gross household income on housing.

Seven more homes, in Country Pointe Woods at Smithtown, will be built under the new housing policy. Lotteries for those properties will be held in the coming months, officials said.

Prior to implementation of the policy, the town often used density bonuses and zoning requirements as inducements for developers to build about 200 affordable rental units in the town.

“This is so our kids and grandchildren can stay in the area, get jobs and be around family,” said Kelly Brown, the town’s housing rehabilitation administrator. “It’s so they don’t have to move to another state, and can have pride of home ownership.”

Smithtown is among Long Island’s priciest housing markets, with a median sales price of $490,000 from April through July, according to brokerage Douglas Elliman. Median sales price across the Island, excluding the Hamptons and the North Fork, was $425,000. Almost all the town’s housing stock is single-family homes, though several projects — including one that calls for apartments on Main Street across from town hall — could diversify that.

Long Island Housing Partnership conducts about 10 to 15 housing lotteries a year across Long Island, with some drawing hundreds of applications for a handful of units, said James Britz, the group’s executive vice president, in an interview.

With little open land for large subdivisions in Smithtown, multifamily development could be a likelier source of housing for working class residents under the town’s policy.

But town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo and Robin DiGirolamo, Douglas Elliman’s Smithtown branch manager, said that much future development would hinge on promised sewer systems in Smithtown and Kings Park hamlets. Without the hookups, DiGirolamo said, “developers shy away.”  

But “developers are starting to look at Smithtown, and we’re definitely starting to see volume if you look at the site plans," Garguilo said. "There is movement on the horizon.”

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