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Fund Could Bring Affordable Housing To Eastern Long Island

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Hamptons could start generating money to fund more affordable housing in eastern Long Island by 2023. The pandemic has intensified the need for year-round housing.

“There's a real housing crunch as people have moved out of the city and what used to be seasonal homes now people are spending more and more time there,” said state Assemblyman Fred Thiele of Sag Harbor, who sponsored the legislation.

The Community Housing Fund would help first-time homebuyers receive financial assistance and housing counseling. It would also help towns purchase existing buildings or build new community housing for sale and rent in Southampton, East Hampton, Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island.

It would all be covered by a proposed half percent tax on real estate transactions with a few exemptions.

This plan is similar to a Community Preservation Fund that was started over 20 years ago in the region. A 2% tax on real estate transactions has raised almost $2 billion for historic preservation, open space and water quality improvements.

The bill awaits approval from Governor Andrew Cuomo this month, then goes to the voters in a 2022 ballot referendum.

Cuomo vetoed it in 2019.

“The state was facing a budget deficit, and the governor was trying to send a message that he was not going to increase taxes as part of the 2020 budget,” Thiele said. “And then of course, COVID had all this stuff go sideways.”

Thiele said he is more optimistic this year because of the greater housing need.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.