Dozens filled the recently-built Greybarn apartment building’s cozy new lounge for The Millennial Leadership Coalition’s “Evening Discussion on Millennial Housing on Long Island,” on Oct. 30 in Amityville. Definitely a hip topic, but not cozy, was the frustration about Long Island’s housing challenges. Watch the video of the event here:

Three presenters shared their expertise and experiences navigating the development and housing landscape here, followed by questions from a receptive audience hungry for ways to fix the struggle to find homes on LI.

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Todd Poole, an economist and president of 4WARD Planning Incorporated, works with both municipalities and developers. He blames zoning laws for the lack of affordable housing here and across the nation. After working for many developers and a lot of cities, he says developers are not the problem, that they are simply given the rules by the jurisdiction and follow them. “So you need to talk about who makes those rules and how those rules influence the cost of housing,” he said.

He also discussed “missing middle housing,” the housing that got bulldozed over for shopping centers, like duplexes and cottages, a type of housing that’s needed here for millennials and downsizers. He thinks a solution is for large employers to provide employees housing assistance through land trusts or housing subsidies.

Peter Elkowitz, president and CEO of the Long Island Housing Partnership, shared successes the partnership has had with administering down payment assistance programs, credit counseling and rehabilitation grant programs for homes that need renovations.

“Look at it,” he said, talking about the website with all their program offerings, including housing lotteries for rental developments.

Roger Weaving, president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, works to create the conditions for affordable housing to be built.

He echoed that what makes it difficult to build is the rules. “The good news is the rules can be bent,” he said. He encouraged voting in local races, attending board meetings and writing emails. “Tell them why you’re 38 and still living in your parents basement, tell them why you’ve been postponing getting married because you don’t feel right where you’re living now or tell them why you’re leaving the island in the next few months,” he said.

Developers Gregg Rechler and Don Monte also spoke. “It takes a long time and it’s complicated on Long Island but it’s worth it,” Rechler said.

“Let’s start first with changing some of the lingo,” Monte said. “You mention affordable housing and people go crazy. Let’s call it attainable housing, let’s call it housing for our sons daughters, firemen, policemen, schoolteachers, the disappearing middle class.”

Questions and discussion from the audience followed centered on resistance from the school districts about building developments, frustration with the situation here, the affordability of units in newly-built luxury apartment buildings, illegal accessory apartments, wages and purchasing power and voting in local elections. At the end, the audience posed the presenters an integral question: So how do we change all this?

Their unanimous answer: Be loud and show up at board meetings.

The Millennial Leadership Coalition is comprised of the leaders of various organizations based in Nassau and Suffolk counties who are committed to active engagement in matters pertaining to the economic, governmental, social, and environmental future of Long Island.

Watch the video above to hear the full remarks and the Q&A discussion (starting at 40 minutes in). 


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