Michael Daly of East End YIMBY, Habitat for Humanity of Long Island CEO Jimmy Jack, Town of Southampton Housing Authority Executive Director Curtis Highsmith, architect Ryan Kesner and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman at the wall-raising ceremony for The House Beer Built in Riverside, a collaboration between the Town of Southampton Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity of Long Island. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY
Twenty-six or so homeownership opportunities and 26 accessory apartments could be on the horizon for income-qualified applicants as the Town of Southampton Housing Authority, the Town of Southampton itself and a private developer, with the help of the county and state, pursue a U.S. Coast Guard housing site in Westhampton that the federal government plans to sell as excess property.
At the wall-raising ceremony for an affordable home in Riverside last week, Town of Southampton Housing Authority Executive Director Curtis Highsmith said while there are many details to be worked out, chances are the arrangement will be a public-private partnership and under joint ownership — just like the Sandy Hollow and Speonk Commons affordable apartments.
This plan differs from those earlier affordable housing projects in that the vision is for single-family homes that will be sold to individual homeowners. Each home will also have an accessory apartment, reserved for income-qualified tenants, as a means of creating more housing opportunities and helping the homeowners afford mortgages.
Among the things they still have to figure out, Highsmith said, is whether the partners can afford the acquisition cost.
The U.S. General Services Administration had been planning to auction off the 14-acre site north of Stewart Avenue with a starting bid of $5 million, but held off on the auction to give the town and its partners time to come up with a plan. The site includes 24 duplexes, two single-family units and one residential/office/workshop unit built in 1959 and renovated in 2011, according to the GSA. The duplexes range in size from 1,948 to 5,917 square feet. The site also comes with a stormwater management system, a playground, and open space areas.
“We’re looking to do ‘for sale,’” Highsmith said. “That’s what we heard the community say that’s what they want to do. So we’re going to try to do our best to adhere to the needs and wants, desires, of the community.”
Making each homeowner a landlord to an affordable accessory apartment is a model that has been successful elsewhere, he said.
He noted that the housing authority has built houses with accessory apartments in the past, but in those cases, the authority is the landlord for both the house and the apartment. “This the first time we’re doing it where the homeowner will be the landlord,” he said.
A plan to help the homeowners through the landlord experience is under consideration.
“A lot of people are a little fearful of taking on that obligation and responsibility,” Highsmith said. “So it may require us to help them with some type of program where the housing authority will aid them in some type of management agreement. We’ll help with complications. We’ll help with the leasing of the property. We’ll collect rents. If there’s legal action that has been taken, maybe we’ll work with the landlord to help them with that so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the experience of becoming a landlord for the first time.”
But that is putting the cart before the horse, he said. First thing’s first: “We gotta get these units.
“We have to be able to convince legislative bodies and those that are involved that the best community benefit for those lots is to convert them into affordable housing,” he continued. “I recognize that the Coast Guard has a desire to get market rate. But at some point in time, we got to recognize the limitations of affordable housing in our community has created an epidemic — nationally, but specifically in the Hamptons.”
Land values make it difficult to acquire land, and then there are difficulties in getting permission to build with density, he pointed out.
“Here’s a situation we have preexisting density, and we’ll be able to repurpose it for means of affordable housing,” he said of the Coast Guard site. “Why not? It seems like a perfect means to convert it to community benefit.”
Westhampton and Riverside aren’t the only places in Southampton Town where the housing authority is working toward creating affordable housing. A two-family house with an accessory apartment above the garage is planned in Southampton Village, and 3.3 acres in North Sea are in the planning process for six lots with homes for sale, according to Highsmith.
One fine body…