There is a general recognition among residents, businesses, and public officials of the need for affordable housing on the East End of Long Island. I recently met with Catherine Casey, Executive Director of the East Hampton Housing Authority, to gain perspective of the problem and attempts to address it. The Housing Authority, which owns properties, was created in 1983. The Town of East Hampton Office of Housing and Community Development, which administers the Town’s Section 8 voucher program, was created in 1985. Catherine has worked for both. These are the issues we discussed.
Which are the HA-owned properties?
CC: Our portfolio includes Accabonac Apartments which we created in 1999. It’s a Tax Credit Project that consists of fifty 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments for Section 8 eligible tenants who must recertify annually to determine continued eligibility. We also own Avallone Apartments, a seventeen-unit development with fifteen 1 bedrooms and two 2 bedroom apartments. Tenants must be low-moderate income qualified and must recertify every year. Section 8 is accepted but not required. It’s located in Montauk and was created in 1993. And third, we have Springs Fire Place Apartments created in 2008. It consists of thirteen 1 and thirteen 2 bedroom apartments. They are not subsidized units. They are available to median income households who must demonstrate ability to pay and have good credit.
Just to state for our readers, the Section 8 Program is a federal program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development whereby eligible tenants are not permitted to pay more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, and in the voucher program the landlord receives the balance from the Federal Government up to the fair market rent, as approved by HUD.
CC: That’s correct, and as we said earlier, that is administered by the Town’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
What are the eligibility requirements for the Springs?
CC: The tenants must live or work full-time in East Hampton, and preference is given to EMT and Fire Volunteers, teachers, school staff, and mental service workers.
With an aging EMT and Fire Volunteer work force, as well as the cost of housing for teachers and administrative staff, I’m sure there is a great demand for that type of housing.
CC: Absolutely. For every available unit, we have at least 100 candidates. In fact, the Town Supervisor has just established a committee to find out what the true need for affordable housing is. Just to provide some perspective, it is my opinion working in this field for as long as I have, if we had 2,000 subsidized units, we would have 100 percent occupancy.
Has the Authority ever used in powers of Eminent Domain to acquire properties?
CC: No we have not.
How has the market affected your ability to acquire properties for development?
CC: About 90 percent of the Town is built out. And 70 percent has been preserved. Only about 10 percent of the land is available for development, which brings us to our new project in Amagansett. It’s a proposed mixed-use project. It has a four-unit commercial component with studio apartments, as well as 92 residential. The property is bounded by Route 27, a liquor store, train tracks and a gas station with a car wash. Because of the cost of real estate in East Hampton, we paid $3.4 million, $800,000 an acre for less than 5 acres. That’s how the market has affected our program.
What is its current status and when do you expect to complete it?
CC: We want this project to be a Jewel. So that people will say, “Wow, I don’t know why we ever opposed it.” We want to do on-site water treatment and make the project energy efficient. We want it to be a model for future development. As far as time projections, the site has been cleared. The zoning has been in place 30 years. We are currently in the ‘sell it to the community’ phase. I think we will be able to go to the Planning Board in two to three months and be fully built and occupied by 2019.
What seems to be the pulse of the community?
CC: Some of the opposition is reasonable, and as with all attempts to build affordable housing, some is unreasonable. My battle is with the school districts. I believe 60 percent of the Amagansett community would support the project and 80 percent of the Town would. It’s my job to make the case for approval.
In our next article, we will demonstrate efforts made by the Town of Southampton Housing Authority to provide affordable housing.