Southold Town officials are considering a proposal that could lead to the creation of more affordable housing spaces in certain areas by easing some zoning restrictions.

The idea, according to town government liaison officer Denis Noncarrow, involves allowing for zoning exemptions of future retail spaces that would house affordable units above them.

Under town zoning use regulations governing certain low-density residential districts, “no buildings or premises are allowed to be erected or altered, which is arranged, intended or designed to be used, in whole or part, for any uses” except for specific uses.

While there is no specific number available on how many housing units the zoning exceptions would create, Noncarrow said “the basic idea is to open up some other options so the town isn’t standing in the way of creating more affordable housing.”

The need for such housing has been a subject North Fork communities have been grappling with for years, with officials and residents all pointing to rising home prices making it harder for people to live and work there.

The proposed zoning exemptions were presented by Noncarrow and Assistant Town Attorney Damon Hagan at the town board’s Sept. 12 work session. The exemptions would permit existing space to be converted into a maximum of six moderate-income residential rental units in several districts with the approval of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

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Those districts include residential low-density, residential office, limited business, hamlet business and general business, among others.

Property owners applying for the rental unit exceptions would have to agree to convert the space within six months of getting the exception and would have to maintain them as affordable housing units for a minimum of eight years.

If applicants for the special housing exception decide later to get rid of the housing space, it would revert to whatever the original zoning was prior to the exception, Hagan said.

The proposal will go before the town’s Code Committee for further review.