Dozens of Properties for Housing

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The Town of Southampton currently has 46 residential properties donated from Suffolk County to be utilized for affordable housing. Some of the parcels are empty lots and some have existing structures on them, and the discussion at a town board work session on Friday could not have been timelier according to former town supervisor Patrick “Skip” Heaney, newly appointed Suffolk County Commissioner of Workforce Housing and Economic Development.

The majority of the 46 parcels, acquired by the county after owners failed to pay the taxes on the properties, lie west of the Shinnecock Canal with a handful further east. The closest parcel to Sag Harbor is in Noyac.

Heaney said the aim of the program, called 72-H after the section of the state law that allows for the transfers, is the “need to increase the inventory of affordable units” across the county. And as it relates to Southampton, he said, “the demand here probably is in excess of 200 families, I would imagine, that are in need of housing.”

The town’s assistant housing director John White alluded to Heaney’s claim during his presentation of the status of the 46 properties.

“I don’t have to tell anybody in this room there is very limited rental opportunity [in the town],” said White. “[Southampton] is a high priced, seasonal housing market.”

As for the requirements for the parcels, some of which are ready to be developed, White said the properties could be utilized for rental or homeownership opportunities. There will be criteria for applicants, such as moderate income families earning no more than 80 percent of the Housing and Urban Development-established median annual household income for the region, based on family size. The average maximum eligible income for a family of four is $77,733 per year in Southampton town.

“Of the 46 parcels held by the Town of Southampton, 19 are suitable for development of single family homes, with one of them achieved by merging two adjacent substandard lots,” said assistant town planning and development administrator Freda Eisenberg. “Most of these buildable parcels are small and seven will require variances, as well as building permits, but they can be developed in a manner that is in keeping with the predominant neighborhood character.”

The town’s department of land management will be overseeing the transfer of the properties and the plan is to utilize both the town’s housing authority as well as a number of not-for-profit organizations. Typically, when a property is transferred, there is a direct assignment process to the not-for-profit groups for development. However, the town board expressed interest in trying to utilize the housing authority as much as possible in the process. If the housing authority cannot meet the needs of the properties, which are sometimes in poor condition, then they will act as a clearinghouse, dolling out the parcels to the not-for-profits.

Heaney said the town should consider utilizing the housing authority to focus on lots in areas slated for community renewal and on lots that are tightly grouped for potential rental units.

The county has a development timeline for the transferred properties of three years. The town acquired all but three of the 46 parcels in 2002 and 2003, but received extensions from the county. At the work session on Friday, when the supervisor began discussing the logistics of applying for another extension, councilman Dan Russo asked White what needed to be done in order to avoid asking for more time.

“Build the houses,” responded White.

Currently, the deadlines on a number of properties range between March of 2009 and December of 2010.

At Tuesday’s meeting the town board authorized the department of land management to order surveys for 15 of the 19 properties determined buildable and referred the 72-H status report to the housing authority to more thoroughly develop a direct assignment process and the clearing house idea.

Top Photo: Suffolk County Commissioner of Workforce Housing and Economic Development Patrick “Skip” Heaney discusses 72-H properties with the Southampton Town Board last Friday.

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