Housing is a Priority for Rona Smith

1015Did you know that Rona Smith is Chair of the Southold Town Housing Advisory Committee and was instrumental in the development of the “Cottages at Mattituck” project?

“Many affordable housing units have been built in Southold over the years, but they have been lost to the marketplace,” Rona explains.

Not until The Cottages at Mattituck were built, under the Housing Advisory Commission with Rona on board, has there been no loss of housing to the un-affordable market!

“Of the 22 original units, five have sold at affordable rates set by cost of living compounded by years of ownership,” she said. “Small profit for owner, affordable price for new buyer!”

You can read more about Southold’s housing commission here.

Southold Housing in Crisis

This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of the Peconic Landing Newsletter.

Peconic Landing residents are citizens of Southold and voters here, too;  your opinions are valued.  Southold Town, which includes the villages/hamlets from Laurel east to Orient Point has had a housing crisis for a number of years.  As a resort destination close to New York City, it attracts second homeowners, people whose incomes are earned elsewhere, on a different pay scale.  Coupled with a successful land preservation program, this has created a scarcity of land in the face of ever-increasing demand.  Both factors push up the price of land.  Expensive land discourages the building of modest houses, so new houses are increasingly larger.  Large houses on expensive land result in high-priced homes.  Older houses are impacted in turn and housing prices escalate across-the-board.

People who work full-time in Southold Town often cannot secure housing to meet their budgets.  They are forced to move away or live in sub-standard housing conditions.

In Southold, rising home prices have sidelined many first-time buyers, elderly down-sizers, and those who earn median incomes in local communities (the median being the point at which half of incomes fall above and half below).  In Southold, a lack of rental apartments compounds the housing problem. The Nassau/Suffolk median income for a family of four stands at $110,800.  If, as banks presume, a home is affordable at 2.5 times gross income, the median family can afford a house priced at $277,000 ($110,800 X 2.5).  In Southold Town the median home price is approximately $579,900.  Big disconnect.

High housing costs (mortgage plus taxes) are burdening residents across Long Island: 57% of the population spend more than 30% of their gross income on housing and 32% spend 50% or more![1]  A recent survey found that 72% of those aged 18-34 plan to leave L.I. by the year 2020.  This represents a significant portion of the island’s working age and child-bearing population, presaging stagnant population growth, shrinking schools and unfilled jobs.  Young adults on L.I. are most impacted by the lack of suitable housing and are more than twice as likely to live with parents when compared to the national average.  The problem affects seniors, too, many of whom need to downsize and ‘down-budget’.

An affordable housing development with 50 units is now in the Town’s approval process.  Public hearings are imminent once the development passes its Planning Board review.  The Housing Advisory Commission, of which I am chair, strongly supports this development that will offer homes to families earning 50% and 60% of the area median income.

There are many people who will oppose anything below market rate and public opinion will matter in getting this finalized.  I hope you will lend your voices to those speaking in favor of offering this housing.

[1] American Community Survey, 2015