Start Building

Posted on 07 August 2008

Two weeks ago we learned that the county donated 14 plus properties slated for affordable housing to Southampton Town some seven years ago. To our dismay, we also learned not a single unit has been built on any of them.

It’s no secret that there is a crisis when it comes to affordable housing, or more appropriately the virtual non-existence of it, in many communities here on the East End, especially in Southampton Town. The brain drain it is creating on our communities, driving the youngest and the brightest away in search of communities that actually provide what we cannot seem to – affordable places to live – is a travesty we should all be aware of.

That being said, we were pleased to hear the town’s dissent towards a recent state mandate promoted as a cure all to this crisis. It is called the Long Island Workforce Housing Act and it passed the state assembly, the state senate and is now law. It should more aptly be dubbed the “Let’s Continue to Foster Segregation on Long Island Act.”

The thinly veiled law gives developers the choice to simply buy their way out of building affordable units in the very places that need it most, without any assurance the buyout will actually benefit the community the developer’s targeted in the first place. One opt out provision goes so far as to allow the Long Island Housing Partnership the choice to spend money from the housing trust fund created by the law in places not even located within our county lines. Indeed, the places that need affordable housing the most are not – to the apparent surprise of legislators in Albany –the places where affordable housing already exists, mainly west of the canal as far as Suffolk County goes.

Instead these places are our neighboring communities of Sagaponack, East Hampton, and Water Mill as well as right here in Sag Harbor. These are the places where young people want to live, but can’t because a one bedroom apartment costs $1,700 a month.

Also, the law gives the town a three-year time table before money is turned over to the Long Island Housing Partnership, and given the recent knowledge concerning the aforementioned 14 properties, we are reluctant to believe the town can be trusted to use the money in a timely fashion.

The East End is a place where NIMBYism runs rampant, a places where people say, “I’m all for affordable housing, so long as I don’t have to see it, so long as it’s not in my back yard.” What makes this mindset even more disturbing is the stigma that seems to exist around any affordable housing project, despite the fact that affordable housing on the East End mainly services the middle to lower classes. We are not talking about Section-8 or migrant-worker housing on the East End.

So we applaud Southampton Town for thinking twice about this so-called solution proffered by our lawmakers in upstate New York. Keep writing your letters to the governor Supervisor Kabot, but more importantly start building on the properties you already have, properties donated to you. Give you’re the town housing authority the jurisdiction and financing it deserves. Time is running out.

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