Housing for Seniors, Disabled Became a Recurring Theme

Eleni Prieston asks the panel a question during the Express Sessions: Affordable Housing event that took place at the American Hotel on Friday, 2/22/19. Michael Heller photo

A recurring topic during Friday’s Express Sessions discussion was affordable housing for senior citizens and people with disabilities and the related issue of services to support them.

“Aging in place is simply wanting to stay in your own home until you expire, period,” said Dr. Nancy Peppard, a forensic geriontologist who is the executive director of the Out East Neighborhood Network. “It’s not any extraordinary thing, but the fact is we don’t have the services here.”

Catherine Casey, director of the East Hampton Housing Authority, related the issue of affordable housing to Dr. Peppard’s point: “Who are the people that provide those services and where do they live?” she asked. Oftentimes, Ms. Casey said, those caregivers also need affordable housing, in addition to seniors whose incomes may not support living in houses. She also said “a leg up is given to people with any disabilities” when it comes to the housing authority’s properties.

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Diana Weir, Southampton Town’s director of housing and human services, cited a model of housing in which people who are disabled can live together with the assistance of a house manager supported by the residents’ rent.

“The system works in other places and they’re looking to see if they can find property to do that here as well,” Ms. Weir said.

From the audience, Eleni Prieston offered a potential housing site, particularly for the disabled or elderly: the Stony Brook Southampton college campus. According to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., even as approximately 600 students take classes there regularly, multiple dormitory buildings on the campus remain unoccupied.

“Potential housing opportunities are presented by those parts of the campus that are not being utilized,” he said.

He also noted that Stony Brook Southampton Hospital was recently cleared by New York State to build a new hospital at the nearby university campus.

“When the hospital does move, that leaves the facility that is there now,” Mr. Thiele said. “Maybe that could be an assisted living facility or maybe some other option, housing for the disabled, or things that we are talking about today.”

Ms. Prieston is involved with a group called Special Services East End Network, or SEEN, which advocates for the developmentally impaired who age out of the public school system.

“I think it’s practical and makes sense,” Ms. Prieston said of the college dorm solution. “Things happen out here very, very, very slowly. We just keep pushing ahead hoping that we don’t have to devote a decade to the solution.”