An Unfair Burden
Southampton Town’s push for affordable housing is unfair, ineffective for residents — and possibly illegal.
Let’s look at some facts; first, where this housing can be located within the town. The seven incorporated villages’ strict zoning will not allow these affordable developments, so they are off limits. This fact illustrates the hypocrisy of the town’s efforts, since so many town officials and advocates of affordable housing live in these villages. Currently, there are no plans for any affordable housing development in any of these wealthy incorporated villages.
This leaves the hamlets, the unincorporated areas, where the Town of Southampton is the governing authority, as the prime location for these developments, these areas being subject to town zoning and occupancy regulations. The problem is, the town has in the past done a poor job of enforcing its own rules, claiming that it did not want to make the housing problem worse.
This lack of code enforcement has caused problems for areas like Hampton Bays, where the student population has increased dramatically. This has caused the school tax levy to soar. Currently, the working- and middle-class area of Hampton Bays pays the second-highest tax rate in the town. This, coupled with an aggressive reassessment this past year, has created the perfect tax storm for the hamlet. This compares with much lower tax rates in the wealthy villages. The town is complicit in causing these inequalities in taxation with working- and middle-class areas like Hampton Bays paying much higher taxes.
The town’s solution under the cover of the Hampton Bays Downtown Overlay District is to propose a massive 248-apartment residential development. The project is to be in the hamlet’s commercial district, with over 20 percent of the development dedicated to affordable housing. This is way more than the hamlet can absorb and will only lead to much higher real estate taxes. Many seniors are giving up and relocating because the tax burden has become overwhelming.
The reason why the town’s plans are ineffective is because under federal fair housing laws residents of the town cannot be given a priority in obtaining this housing; they must apply on an equal basis with any other U.S. citizen. There is no guarantee that this housing will go to the desired population.
Lastly, in a landmark case, the City of Yonkers was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for directing low-income housing to one area of the town. Yonkers lost the case after going bankrupt fighting it.
It’s my opinion that what is occurring in the Town of Southampton is tantamount to the Yonkers scenario. The wealthy areas are devoid of affordable housing projects, while the working- and middle-class areas are forced to pick up the slack.
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