In 2019, legislation to create a Peconic Bay Community Housing Fund was introduced, and while A.4941-B was passed through both Houses of the Legislature, it was vetoed by the Governor.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D – Sag Harbor) recently announced that legislation which would authorize the Towns of East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton, and Southold to establish a Town Community Housing Fund has been re-introduced.
“The lack of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions. Local employers have difficulty hiring and retaining employees because of housing costs and availability,” Assemblyman Thiele stated.
The proposed legislation includes that the Community Housing Fund could be utilized to “(a) provide financial assistance to first-time homebuyers not to exceed 50% of the purchase price, (b) the production of community housing for sale, (c) the production of community housing for rent, (d) rehabilitation of existing buildings for community housing, (e) housing counseling, and (f) the acquisition of real property in existing housing units, to result in production of community housing for sale or rent. Towns would have to adopt a Community Housing Plan before the fund could be implemented.”
“Local volunteer emergency services are experiencing difficulty in recruitment and retention. Long-time residents are forced to leave the area,” he relayed. “This has all been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is driving up the second home real estate market on the East End.”
The Town Community Housing Fund would be funded by a 1/2% increase to the existing 2% real estate transfer tax that finances the Community Preservation Fund. To provide additional assistance to affordable housing purchasers, legislation would also increase the exemption on the transfer tax for improved property to $400,000 in the Towns of East Hampton, Southampton, and Shelter Island and to $200,000 in Southold and Riverhead. This legislation would mean a tax cut for nearly half of East End real estate transactions. Exemptions would apply solely to transfers of $2 million or less, resulting in a tax cut for transfers less than $1 million on the South Fork and on Shelter Island, as well as $400,000 or less on the North Fork and in Riverhead. Additionally, the purchase price limit for the exemption for first time homebuyers in East Hampton, Southampton and Shelter Island towns would expand from 120% to 150% of the purchase price limit as determined by the state of New York mortgage agency.
The East End has faced an affordable housing crisis for years now, which has been intensified by COVID-19 and the influx of people seeking refuge from the pandemic in the area, in turn driving up the cost of real estate.
“This legislation will provide Towns with a meaningful tool that can make a difference by providing housing opportunities for its residents at a much greater rate than they can with existing resources and programs. Ultimately, it will be the voters who will get to decide,” he reflected.
The legislation will head to the Assembly Local Governments Committee for consideration, which Thiele is a chair of.