Wrong Step - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1966747

Wrong Step

Regarding “Town Takes Affordable Housing Step” [May 12], I believe the town is taking the wrong step by proposing a new tax on real estate sales over $2 million to help create more affordable housing opportunities. The proposed 0.5 percent tax would be added to the current 2 percent Community Preservation Fund tax on real estate sales.

I firmly support the need for affordable housing in East Hampton and the East End generally — but do we really need another tax? According to the Tax Foundation, New York ranks No. 1 in the per capita state and local income tax burden, and No. 4 in the property tax burden per capita.

Since its enactment in 1999, the CPF tax has raised nearly $1.7 billion. Last year alone, the fund raised over $210 million, with $66.7 million allotted to East Hampton.

Since the availability of affordable housing is essential to “preserving” a community that has been priced out of touch for many of our essential workers and younger residents, why not use a portion of these funds for affordable housing initiatives? With the recent surge in revenues from the booming real estate market, the fund would still have a significant balance to fund land purchases as they arise.

Regarding the new tax plan, the article states that “towns must present their plans to voters on a general election ballot for it to be implemented, much the same way the Community Preservation Fund has been authorized and expanded by voters.” Why not, instead, have a referendum on an amendment to allow a small portion of the existing CPF to be used for affordable housing initiatives? The fund was previously amended by referendum in 2015 to allow up to 20 percent to be used for water quality projects.

The advantage of assigning a portion of CPF for affordable housing is that the money could be available immediately, whereas the proposed new tax would take time to generate adequate funds to begin addressing what is clearly an immediate need.

It’s been argued that towns can issue bonds to fund millions of dollars for affordable housing now, but why burden towns (and taxpayers) with additional debt, especially with interest rates climbing?

Jeffrey Close


Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has addressed this question, most recently in a Q&A [“Q&A: ‘The Biggest Checkbook In Town’: Assemblyman Thiele On The Community Preservation Fund And The Temptation To Raid It,” 27east.com, April 8], saying that the CPF could not be similarly amended to be used to fund affordable housing — Ed.