How'd We Get Here? - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2080838

How’d We Get Here?

Nearly all of us recognize that we are in an affordable housing crisis. That’s evident at every Express Sessions event held in recent years. It’s evident by “Help Wanted” signs that line County Road 39 and main streets of every village on the East End. It’s evident by the hundreds of local residents who have given up and moved away from family, friends and their jobs because there is no “place” here for them any longer. It became broadly evident when the residents of all four towns passed the Community Housing Fund referendum in November 2022.

So, how did we get here?

It’s really a complex set of circumstances, many layers deep. Here’s my take.

It started with outlawing group rentals and nightclubs in the 1980s. We boomers remembered the ruckus we made in the 1960s and 1970s. As we grew up, bought our own homes and settled, we wanted to make sure future generations couldn’t create nuisance and have as much fun as we did.

Then came downzoning, making building lots larger and limiting properties to only one kitchen.

Then, when a famous tennis player died in a pool house, we outlawed sleeping in accessory buildings.

Then came 9/11, when thousands of Manhattanites moved out east, winterized their summer cottages and bought everything they could … then went back to the city after 18 months. Those who stayed became real estate agents and developers, buying, renovating and flipping homes as a business.

Then came the 2008 “Great Recession,” when some “lost their shirts,” foreclosures hit hard and the bloom on the rose of East End real estate wilted.

Real estate recovered by 2016. Then came the pandemic, where, again, the perceived flight-to-safety brought thousands of urbanites to the East End.

Remote work seemed like it was here to stay. In late winter/spring of 2020, rentals went quickly, then everything that could be sold was sold to the highest bidder over the next two years.

Sales doubled. Locals were evicted from rental homes, replaced by higher-priced tenants or cash-in sales at the new “peak” of the market. A house renting for $3,500 per month today rented for $25,000 for the month of September 2021. Homes selling for $600,000 in 2019 were selling for $1 million in 2021.

Slowly, but surely, we have eliminated the opportunity for local, working class families to have a place on the East End. And it’s not a shortage of housing, for as luxury homes pop up like daisies, the local family is dying on the vine, becoming refugees from their own hometowns.

That fosters uncertainty for us all.

More next week.

Michael Daly

East End YIMBY

Sag Harbor