Take StockI attended the second in the new series of lunch forums started by The Express News Group. This one was on the topic of affordable housing. Though the food was good, the topic was guaranteed to give heartburn to some of the attendees. The problems caused by expensive housing and limited land; developer excess and expensive housing is no secret. Along with this development there is a growing population of workers who come and go in a long gridlocked line to service people and houses out here.
For nearly two hours, several elected officials and town housing employees, as well as affordable housing advocates, spoke. I hope it was made clear to everyone present that due to the Fair Housing laws it is illegal to limit any housing that has been or will be built by the town to locals. Everyone who applies, no matter where they live and where they work and where they were born are eligible. This makes it even more difficult for those individuals who grew up here to stay and build a life of their own, and feel they should be first in line for subsidized housing.
Despite this, we cannot just jam in “affordable housing,” which increases the population, draws on services and does not contribute taxes anywhere a patch of land or a proposal props up. We must do what is right for the community as a whole. The economy of the east end of Long Island, like many other resort areas, relies heavily on tourism and a wealthy second-home community for survival. What is unique must be preserved. We have worked too hard to preserve whatever acres of open space, farmland and our natural resources remain to now start urbanization.
Before another step is taken or a mistake made, it is reasonable and overdue for the town to survey, in cooperation with the incorporated villages, all properties that are available or might become available that might be appropriate for affordable housing.
Looking at proposals on a case-by-case basis every time an opportunity arises, or a plan surfaces from mid-Island, and never looking at the problem and the community as a whole, is disastrous. Zoning has been severely compromised by this approach and Mr. Schneiderman’s comment at the Forum that the Master Plan is going to be revised is insufficient. Before the Master Plan tweaking, we must begin with a land inventory. We must also know how much and where Section 8 housing exists within our communities. It is time to take stock.
Joseph R. McLoughlinSouthampton
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