Affordable housing and how to solve the issue in Long Island’s East End communities dominated a recent roundtable discussion of town supervisors who met with the public in Southampton.
Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Southampton Supervisor Jay Scheiderman, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and Shelter Island Supervisor Gerry Siller also discussed and answered questions from the audience on other key issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on their communities and transportation, but housing was the main topic in a wide-ranging discussion Thursday. The event was hosted by Long Island Business Metro Action, a Ronkonkoma-based business development service.
East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc did not attend. His office said he was at a previously scheduled town board meeting.
On affordable housing, the supervisors pointed out challenges in their respective communities as they attempt to create more options for residents or commuting workers.
“It’s a huge problem with no easy answers,” Siller said, adding previous affordable housing projects have met resistance on Shelter Island. Siller said his town would consider building smaller houses in smaller areas as a possible solution.
In Southold, Russell said the lack of infrastructure such as sewers and little available density to create more affordable housing pose several challenges.
“We need to look at housing as a ladder, and the town’s goal is to create rungs in that ladder,” Russell said, explaining that the town is focusing on more affordable apartments or rentals where people can stay until they can afford to enter the housing market.
All supervisors in attendance expressed support for the November ballot referendum to create a Community Housing Fund, which would help pay for affordable housing initiatives in East End communities via a .5 percent real estate tax.
Aguiar said Riverhead officials have seen that young professionals have struggled to find housing. The town has discussed using money from the referendum tax, if it is passed by voters, to issue housing loans for young professionals “so they can bridge from a rental to a small home,” Aguiar said.
In Southampton, Schneiderman said low density due to town zoning has restricted the private sector from developing more affordable housing. There are several such developments the town has worked toward, he said — Sandy Hollow Cove in Tuckahoe, completed in 2019, and a pending 100-unit development in Quiogue.
“It is sort of drops in the bucket in terms of the pace where things are becoming unaffordable,” Schneiderman said. “It’s like swimming against Niagara Falls, but we are doing what we can.”