Housing Trust Set To Move Forward

Posted on 31 July 2008

With a proposed zoning code that includes a handful of affordable housing provisions, and $2.524 million dollars expected to flow into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust should the condo project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory get the green light, the village is poised to embark on its first affordable housing program over the course of the next year.

This week, Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris announced two board members have already been selected to serve the housing trust, and expects the board will be fully formed in two months time. Groundwork is also being laid for inter-municipal agreements with neighboring governments for funding of the trust. In addition to a number of inclusionary zoning provisions for commercial projects – expected to be adopted in the proposed zoning code – Ferraris expects the board of trustees to consider inclusionary zoning provisions in residential districts to help bolster the housing trust’s coffers, and therefore affordable housing in the Sag Harbor School District.

Last year, affordable housing emerged as a central debate surrounding the proposed development of 65 luxury condo units at the historic factory building on Division Street after the Suffolk County Planning Commission (SCPC) handed down a mandate in April asking the developers to include 20 percent on-site affordable housing. The motion placed both the planning and zoning board of appeals in a position to overrule the SCPC, which both have done, although the zoning board of appeals must make their ruling official during their August meeting.

Just months after the SCPC’s mandate was passed down, Mayor Ferraris announced the village would create its own housing program with the Long Island Housing Partnership’s administration in order to create workforce housing in the village of Sag Harbor.

Dubbed the Local Residential Housing Plan (LRHP), Mayor Ferraris rolled out a proposal that included the creation of zoning that would promote second story residential uses on the second floor of businesses in the village business district and incentive and inclusionary zoning provisions in what would become the proposed village zoning code. He also discussed legalizing the numerous existing, and illegal, accessory apartments in the village as a method of increasing the village’s housing stock.

As a part of the inclusionary zoning provisions laid out in the LRHP, Ferraris introduced the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust (SHCHT), a not-for-profit corporation which would be formed and run by an independent board of community leaders and would be funded by the inclusionary zoning in the proposed code. The SHCHT, in theory, will provide financial assistance in the form of down payment assistance and low interest financing, but would also seek vacant land and existing structure to develop affordable housing.

While the zoning code being developed by the Village of Sag Harbor will only apply within its municipal boundaries, the LRHP and the housing trust are meant to benefit the whole of the Sag Harbor School District. According to Mayor Ferraris, the housing trust and village will reach out to the towns of East Hampton and Southampton to provide funding through budget line items and will reach out to the Village of North Haven in hopes they will adopt their own inclusionary zoning provisions to benefit the trust as their municipality has residents that stand to be served in its implementation.

The housing trust has already been incorporated and Mayor Ferraris, an accountant, will serve on the board along with real estate agent Stacy Pennebaker and Sag Harbor attorney and former zoning board of appeals member Denise Schoen. According to Ferraris, ideally the board will be fully formed in six to eight weeks and will include someone from the banking industry as well as planning and investment experts and two individuals who have a history in activism and promoting affordable housing.

“I am asking people to come forward,” he said on Friday. “We hope there are people who will step forward to be a part of this.”

Ferraris said thus far the concepts behind the housing trust borrow from municipalities who have successfully created similar trusts, as well as not-for-profits.

“It is not purely municipal and it is not purely for profit,” said Ferraris. In addition to provisions in the code, the housing trust will also seek charitable contributions and grants from political and private foundations, he said, as a part of the revenue stream. 

In the proposed zoning code, accessory apartments in residential and village business districts are allowed with a special exception permit. In the residential district, homeowners seeking to legalize accessory apartments may qualify for a loan from the SHCHT in order to do so. Building owners in the village business district will be offered the incentive of a sewer rent waiver for the accessory unit. Twenty percent of any new apartments in the village business district must be accessory apartments under the proposed code. Permits will be issued by an accessory apartment review board, and no more than 50 in the residential district will be approved.

“We will see how it goes for a year to 18 months,” said Ferraris. “If we are not helping matters we can always change things.”

For apartments to be built in the newly proposed Office District, which includes the proposed Ferry Road condo project, inclusionary zoning will be mandated, asking that 10 percent of the units be affordable. In lieu of on-site housing, developers may instead pay $372,000 per unit into the SHCHT. Proposed apartment buildings with five or less units will not be required to provide on-site housing, but will have to pay $186,000 into the SHCHT.

Ferraris said after the proposed code is adopted, the board of trustees will also consider inclusionary zoning regulations in the residential district. In concept those provisions place a cap on the size of a home, and any home over that square footage must pay into the SHCHT. New subdivision regulations, added Ferraris, are also expected to have inclusionary zoning provisions attached to them.

The next meeting on the village’s proposed zoning code will be held on Monday, August 4 at 6 p.m. 

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