Our community, workforce and affordable housing crisis has been allowed to fester for so many years on the East End of Long Island. We have been losing local community members who can’t find affordable places to live, and this crisis has reached new, demoralizing heights during 2021.
Our heritage industries of fishing, farming, tourism and the arts are struggling to stay alive. As you are seeing, service businesses, retail stores and restaurants are closing down in unprecedented numbers in recent months, and there is no relief in sight.
The recent signing of the Community Housing Act by Governor Kathy Hochul is a hopeful step that will allow each of the five East End towns to hold referendums in 2022-23 to pass the bill and start collecting funds to put toward affordable housing. If passed in each township, significant benefits are years away. We need action now.
Townships and villages must rewrite exclusionary zoning codes to allow creation of multifamily homes and apartments. Uninformed local residents who fall victim to the myths of affordable housing — NIMBYs — are the vocal minority at public meetings and have been very effective at intimidating even newly enlightened local town and village leaders from allowing the creation of community housing. These same NIMBYs have worked their way onto appointed or elected boards and have created restrictive zoning laws and practices.
Studies have concluded that both Southampton Township and East Hampton Township are in need of community and affordable dwellings numbering in the thousands. This may require emergency measures and executive action in our towns and villages.
The first four actions:
1. Create workforce housing zoning districts in each village and hamlet to allow for “as of right” community housing developments of up to 100 dwellings.
2. Create multifamily zoning districts in each village and hamlet to allow for two-family homes, duplexes, accessory dwelling units and small apartment buildings to be placed on any property. The best-case scenario would be to eliminate single-family zoning.
3. All properties legally identified for affordable housing in the villages and townships should be handed over to local housing authorities with “as of right” authority to build as they see fit.
4. Make all village and township owned residential property available on a land lease basis to developers and private owners to build “as of right” housing that is affordable.
Until exclusionary zoning is eliminated in each township, village and hamlet, even locally controlled funds for community housing will only be marginally effective, benefiting only a chosen few on the long lists of those seeking affordable community housing.
We strongly encourage public officials to leave a legacy of having done something about this community housing crisis to strengthen our community.
East End YIMBY
One fine body…