47° Good Morning
47° Good Morning

Tax to support housing could be a model for Long Island

Assemb. Fred Thiele has sponsored a bill to

Assemb. Fred Thiele has sponsored a bill to create an affordable housing fund on the East End.   Credit: Barry Sloan

Another intriguing proposal to address the shameful lack of housing that is affordable for all of Long Island’s workforce has arisen on the East End. The concept and the promoter are familar.

Assemb. Fred Thiele is modeling this new plan on legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Ken LaValle two decades ago for the wildly successful Community Preservation Fund for things like open-space acquisition. It comes after an innovative plan pitched recently by Southampton Town to reduce housing costs by allowing homeowners to get permits for accessory apartments with rent and income restrictions.

Thiele’s legislation, which also is being introduced by LaValle, would authorize the five East End towns to levy a 0.5 percent real estate transfer tax and use the money to build affordable housing including, most important, rentals, and offer no-interest loans to first-time home buyers, among other options. The trades and service staff workers who make the tourist economy function are priced out of the area. Towns would opt in to the program, and need voter approval. The money — an estimated $20 million per year for Southampton, East Hampton, Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island — could make a real difference.

Not only the East End has an affordability issue. Long Island’s other eight towns should take a hard look at these ideas, too. Long Island’s affordability conundrum lingers. It’s time to create sensible plans to make Long Island a place where Long Islanders can afford to live.  

— The editorial board