Lottery Held for 65 Affordable Housing Rental Units in Southampton Town

Diana Weir, Southampton Town’s Director of Housing and Community Development, at Monday’s affordable housing lottery, with Bonnie Cannon, the Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. Brendan J. O’Reilly photo

The long-awaited affordable housing lottery for 65 rental units in the Town of Southampton was held Monday at Town Hall, with 268 applications drawn, and each assigned a number.

The No. 1 pick has first priority for a unit at Speonk Commons, next to the Speonk train station, or Sandy Hollow Cove in Tuckahoe. Both are being developed by the Southampton Housing Authority in partnership with Georgica Green Ventures, a for-profit, Jericho-based company that builds affordable housing.

However, all applicants must verify that they meet income eligibility and household composition requirements—so applicants who were assigned high numbers should not feel discouraged, officials advised.

In fact, Diana Weir, the town’s director of housing and community development, noted that for the Southampton Pointe condo development in Tuckahoe last year, the town went through the first 120 ranked applicants before it could fill 15 affordable units—and those 15 still have to qualify for mortgages.

The housing authority has enlisted Arco Management Corporation of Suffern to conduct the application process and screen the applicants for Speonk Commons and Sandy Hollow Cove. Arco compliance managers Lauren Calderon, Jacqueline Carton and Sandra Renauro picked up the applications, which had a postmark deadline of July 22, at the Southampton Post Office on Monday morning and sealed them shut in a plastic box with packing tape.

The box was cut open at the noon housing lottery in the Town Board meeting room, and applications were chosen at random.

Applicants were not required to attend the lottery, though a handful of people came anyway to learn their number immediately. The lottery was also broadcast live on SEA-TV for the sake of others who couldn’t make it to Town Hall, and all applicants will receive a letter informing them of their rank.

Ranked 48 was Gisell Estevez, who presently rents in Mastic with her two sons, 6-year-old Sonniell and 5-year-old Yohansell. She is not from Southampton Town but said that she decided to apply because she was looking for an affordable place to live. She was previously living in Copiague, until a house fire displaced her family two years ago.

“The apartments look really nice, and I just went for a shot to see if I was eligible,” said Ms. Estevez, who works as a debt collector in Farmingdale now. If she does get one of the apartments, she said she will find another job farther east.

Emilie Eckert also attended, and she was ranked 115. She said after her application was drawn that she is hoping for a spot at Speonk Commons.

She previously lived within the Town of Southampton, in Quogue and Remsenburg, but now she lives in Eastport, a hamlet that straddles the Brookhaven-Southampton town line. “I live in Brookhaven, and I’m hoping to get back into Southampton,” she said.

She works within the Town of Southampton at the Suffolk Community College Eastern Campus in Northampton.

Ms. Eckert explained that she was living with her two children in a three-bedroom rental, but they have moved out and now she is looking for a one-bedroom. “The landlord is planning on selling the place, so I need to move out,” she added.

Joanne Esposito came in person and brought a list of six friends, all of whom also applied. Ms. Esposito’s application was drawn 234th, the latest among her friends.

Ms. Esposito said she lived in Southampton Village in an apartment above a garage for 10 years, but then her landlady died and the landlady’s son decided to sell the house. In January, she took custody of her 13-year-old grandson, with whom she would like to share an affordable apartment. Since June, they have been staying with a friend in Water Mill.

Ms. Esposito grew up in Queens and then moved to California before moving back east to take care of her parents, who lived in Mattituck and have since died. She worked for the Dominican Sisters Family Health Services home health aide agency as their office manager in Hampton Bays and now is on Social Security disability. She said she can likely afford only a one-bedroom unit.

The lottery had some hiccups.

As sealed envelopes were drawn, it was discovered that not every envelope contained an application. One contained a Petro fuel bill that ended up in the wrong post office box, while others had blank applications that were returned to sender because they had insufficient postage.

Ms. Carton said it’s possible that the applicants who never received the blank applications that they requested ended up applying anyway, because they had the ability to download and print applications themselves. However, if they did not apply, they will have the chance to send an application now and be added to the bottom of the list of applicants, she said.

Another kink was that a couple of applicants appeared to have mailed more than one application. Ms. Carton said that two or three names were called more than once, and there could have been more duplicates that were not noticed right away. But all of the applications will be uploaded to a database that will flag duplicates, she said, adding that if the same name was drawn twice, that applicant will be assigned the higher of the two numbers.

The post office box will be checked again in two weeks or so, and any late applications received will be ranked and added to the list, according to Ms. Carton. In the future, applications will be accepted on site to maintain a list of people wanting to move in when apartments become available.

After applicants learn their numbers, they will be called for face-to-face interviews. They will have to provide proof of income, such as paychecks and Social Security award letters, and may have to provide their tax returns and bank statements.

Interviews should begin within three weeks, Ms. Carton said Monday.

Some applicants are expected to withdraw even if they prove to be eligible, while others may still be interested but fail to meet the income requirements or have households that are too large. Household income can be as little as $36,750 for a single person in a studio and as high as $99,200 for a family of four in a two-bedroom.

“It’s challenging creating affordable housing,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman remarked before the drawing got started. “We know we need it. We know our workforce is being priced out of the market.”

Curtis Highsmith Jr., the executive director of the Southampton Housing Authority, said at the lottery that he has been working toward this day since assuming his post in 2014. Now that Speonk Commons and Sandy Hollow Cove are nearly complete, and people can drive by and see them, he expects the opposition that some members of the public had over the developments will be alleviated.

“They see that what we have been trying to propose is not just a simple project but something aesthetically desirable, something amazing for the community, something that will enhance overall community and not take away from it,” he said.

He also lauded Georgica Green Ventures. “They’ve far exceeded our expectations,” he said. “They are phenomenal. I think they are going to be a great partner for the Town of Southampton. They were definitely a great partner for the housing authority. And it’s been a long, long journey.”

Mr. Highsmith said residents could begin signing Sandy Hollow Cove leases in August, with Speonk Commons to follow shortly.