Southold Town Council begins discussion on Community Housing Fund Referendum

Southold Town Council has indicated plans to hire a consultant to help develop a community housing finance plan ahead of a potential referendum in November.

In October, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that would allow the five towns in the Peconic Bay area to add 0.5% to the existing 2% Community Preservation Fund tax on real estate transactions in those towns. Each city must present a fund project before holding a referendum to approve it.

The legislation, if passed, would also reduce property transfer tax on all transactions of $400,000 or less on the North Fork. The exemption on North Fork would increase from $150,000 to $200,000.

The city council aims to work with a consultant to complete a plan by July 1 before reviewing it with the community. The next step is to issue a request for proposals, city council members said.

Supervisor Scott Russell stressed to the board that during the contribution process, members must remain objective and “step back and then let the public digest it.”

“New York State had allowed cities to expand, by referendum, the ability to tax half a percent on similar transfers to the Community Preservation Fund. There are exemptions and exclusions up to a certain level of home value. It’s also partly based on household income,” Mr Russell said. “Southold already has a community fund to encourage affordable housing projects.”

He said he had spoken with other towns in the East End and that Southampton had hired a consultant to help him complete the job before the November ballot. East Hampton is prioritizing the deadline, he added. Both supervisors will send their plans to Mr. Russell, which they keep as general as possible to allow some flexibility.

Mr Russell said Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who co-sponsored the act with Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), told him to make the plan broad enough to avoid to rule out opportunities down the road.

City Council member Greg Doroski stressed that the plan needed to be completed no later than the end of August or very early September to give the public time to review it, and initially suggested set a June 1 deadline to potentially allow for two rounds of public hearings. hearings.

Some ideas mentioned during the working session included offering subsidies to first-time home buyers and creating public-private partnerships to facilitate employer-supported housing.

“[The Housing Advisory Commission] Been discussing this for a while. I wish I had time to bring it to HAC and say okay now formally, we’re asking. But also what Scott is saying, if we want to do this in 2022, I think he’s right, we need to hire outside consultants like other cities have done,” said city council member Jill Doherty. “It is unfair to ask HAC to speed things up. This is our typical volunteer committee and I think working with HAC and an outside company I think we can make it happen.

She said the HAC already has a lot of information and can come to a future city council meeting with their thoughts.

Mr. Doroski said the city has money from the “inclusive zoning buyout” that could be directed towards community housing needs.

City Council member Louisa Evans said she supports the idea of ​​using the half-percent tax to help people with down payments.

“Most of our programs are rentals now,” she said. “It would also be more helpful for Fishers Island… Year-round residence housing here doesn’t depend on or go with the city’s affordable housing program, so if there was anything that helped with the down payments, then at least Fishers Island could benefit from some of the money that would be invested in this fund.

The city council also discussed educating the community about housing options.

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