Members of the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, a nonprofit formed in 2008, said this week they remain hopeful that a partnership with the Town of East Hampton might result in a housing project on Route 114 in Wainscott, just outside of Sag Harbor Village, one that could result in many more housing units than the organization would be able to construct on its own.
On Tuesday, Housing Trust directors Robert Calvert and Gregory Ferraris appeared before the Sag Harbor Village Board to discuss their goal of constructing affordable housing on the outskirts of the village. After walking board members through the history of the nonprofit, Mr. Calvert and Mr. Ferraris said the nonprofit’s current mission was to continue talks with East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and the town’s Housing and Community Development Department to work toward a joint project on Route 114.
With the aid of financing from Bridgehampton National Bank, in 2014 the Housing Trust purchased 2 acres on Route 114 in Wainscott for $1.25 million. Known as The Cottages, the property included as of right eight individual certificates of occupancy.
The Housing Trust struggled over the next five years to develop the property into affordable housing with sustainability at the root of the project’s design — but the individual unit cost was not competitive for grant funding, said Mr. Ferraris.
With the aid of the Housing Trust, in 2018, the East Hampton Town Board began exploring the purchase of a 4 acre parcel next to The Cottages, owned by the Triune Baptist Church. In early 2019, the town moved forward with the purchase for $900,000, opening the door to a partnership with the Housing Trust.
In September, the Town Board voted to purchase an additional 2.5 acre flag lot, adjacent to the former Triune Baptist Church lot, for $890,000. While the goal in both purchases was to further affordable housing development, no plan has yet to formally take shape for the three neighboring parcels.
Regardless, Mr. Ferraris said talks were ongoing and that he is hopeful.
“We do feel this is going to be a successful project with the Town of East Hampton,” said Mr. Ferraris on Tuesday night.
“We do not know the final configuration of the property, but we hope to leverage this property in a way not previously imaged,” said Mr. Calvert.
If the partnership moves forward, Mr. Ferraris estimated it could generate a little over 30 units of affordable housing just outside of Sag Harbor Village — a municipality that has yet to develop affordable housing on its own due to the lack of affordable land in the village’s 2 square miles.
Mr. Calvert added that the Housing Trust remains committed to an environmentally conscious project as it moves forward in talks with the town.
“Our objective is to say this: We live in a critical time where we have to be energy conscious,” said Mr. Calvert. “All affordable housing is going to increase density, and we have to look at how do we do this in a responsible way.”
The Housing Trust has received its funding from inclusionary zoning fees paid to the Village of Sag Harbor by the developers of the The Watchcase condominiums, who agreed to pay just over $2.54 million to the village in lieu of adding on-site affordable housing in the luxury development.
Instead of the village managing a housing fund, and after studying other nonprofits in areas like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the Housing Trust was formalized and monies from inclusionary zoning fees are funnelled from the village to the nonprofit to develop housing.
According to Mr. Ferraris, payments are made to the village based on the closing of units. Since 2015, he said $2.1 million of those fees have been collected by the Housing Trust, and it expects to earn $500,000 more on the remaining sales at Watchcase.
While some of that funding was used to pay down the loan from BNB — the Housing Trust retains about $1.5 million in its coffers — Mr. Ferraris said the nonprofit hopes to keep much of its funding intact in order to develop other opportunities for housing initiatives.
Sag Harbor Village Board member Aidan Corish wondered if the Wainscott School District was supportive of the housing plans on Route 114. Officials in the Wainscott School District have balked in the past when housing projects have been proposed for the hamlet.
“No, not at all,” said Mr. Ferraris.
However, said Mr. Calvert, the current East Hampton Town Board remains committed to affordable housing throughout the town.
“To the credit of the town supervisor, he has said we all have to assume this is our responsibility, and we will take this on,” said Mr. Calvert.
Mr. Calvert said the Housing Trust also hopes to work with the Village of Sag Harbor on its accessory apartment laws and perhaps providing funding to help aid the creation of housing through that kind of redevelopment.
“It starts to make sense for us to look at other ways we can directly make to impact communities,” he said.