Governor Has Until October 9 To Sign Or Veto Community Housing Fund Bill - 27 East

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Governor Has Until October 9 To Sign Or Veto Community Housing Fund Bill

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Governor Kathy Hochul at Friday's fundraiser.  DANA SHAW

Governor Kathy Hochul at Friday's fundraiser. DANA SHAW

Brendan J. O’Reilly on Sep 29, 2021

The State Legislature sent Governor Kathy Hochul a bill on Tuesday, September 28, that would establish the Community Housing Fund on the East End, and she has until October 9 at midnight to either sign the legislation into law or veto it.

The same day that the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act was delivered to the governor, more than 35 East End leaders and organizations signed onto a letter urging her to approve the bill. The letter cites the region’s affordable housing crisis and points out that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

The bill, which the Legislature passed back in spring, would enable each town to hold a referendum on the Community Housing Fund — but only after the town creates a plan to demonstrate to the public how the fund would be used to produce affordable housing. Some options are building or rehabilitating housing to be rented or sold at affordable rates or helping homebuyers by subsidizing the cost of a house.

In towns where voters approve the fund, an additional half-percent tax will be added to the existing 2 percent Community Preservation Fund tax, which is imposed on house sales in the five East End towns. The revenue from the additional half-percent tax will go into a dedicated fund to be used for affordable housing initiatives.

Though the tax rate would rise from 2 percent to 2.5 percent, nearly a third of all real estate transactions will actually pay less in terms of dollars, according to the office of Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the author of the bill. That’s because the law increases exemptions. In Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island towns, the exempt amount of the purchase price would rise from $250,000 to $400,000. In Riverhead and Southold, it would increase from $150,000 to $200,000.

On the South Fork, taxes will be reduced for transactions of less than $1 million. On the North Fork, transactions for less than $400,000 will have taxes reduced.

The letter to the governor notes that the median home price in Suffolk County was $397,400 in 2019 while it was $671,600 in Southampton and $869,600 in East Hampton.

“Local employers have increasing difficulty hiring and retaining employees,” the letter states. “Local volunteer emergency services agencies also experience difficulty in recruitment and retention. Local families are leaving the area.”

The letter also notes that because workers must come from up west, where housing costs are lower, traffic congestion on local roads has reached “gridlock levels,” and the lack of affordable housing has also resulted in substandard and illegal housing conditions.

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