A much-needed new affordable housing venture in East Hampton should not go without comment. The East Hampton Housing Authority effort on Three Mile Harbor Road will provide 50 apartment-like units. While the authority operates independently, its board members are appointed by the town board, which received $5.6 million to finance the project. The developer, Georgica Green Ventures, built the recent Gansett Meadow residences on Montauk Highway in Amagansett. The Three Mile Harbor Road complex, on 14 acres, will have one, two, and three-bedroom rentals in a total of five separate structures. It will be open to eligible applicants at low and moderate income levels. Additional rental assistance for eight of the apartments will come through Section 8 vouchers.
The demand is acute. According to a recent analysis, East Hampton Town has about 21,000 housing units, of which just 617, about 3 percent, could be called affordable. Even though East Hampton has been a leader among Long Island local governments in developing below-market housing, there have been fewer than 600 units made available since the 1980s. Fewer than 100 units have been built since 2010, despite the population leaping by more than a third.
About a quarter of all households in the town face severe housing problems, as defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. This takes many forms. Younger people must move away in order to keep a roof over their heads. Businesses, schools, and community organizations struggle to attract and hold on to employees. Untold others live in dangerous or substandard conditions, such as basements. Still others in their cars or on friends’ or relatives’ couches. This has contributed to an aging of the town’s resident population, statistically older than the county, state, and national averages. Finding people to care for the aging is a significant concern already. Where renters are able to find houses or apartments, the cost exceeds a third of occupants’ incomes — the generally accepted maximum in about two-thirds of cases. This has a negative effect on residents’ quality of life, health, and educational success.
This fall, voters in the East End towns will be asked via a ballot referendum to authorize a half-percent tax on most real estate purchases to go into a new Community Housing Opportunity Fund. This might be the single most important vote locally in years. While it will not end the housing crisis, it could go a long way toward lessening the pain.