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East Hampton Looks to Become a ‘Pro-Housing’ Town

Thu, 03/07/2024 - 10:43
Town, county, and state officials at an August 2022 groundbreaking for the East Hampton Housing Authority's apartment complex on Three Mile Harbor Road.
Durell Godfrey

East Hampton Town will seek New York State Pro-Housing Community designation as part of a program established last year by executive order of Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Joanne Pilgrim of the town’s Office of Housing and Community Development told the town board on Tuesday that the program is designed to reward local governments that are working to address the state’s housing crisis. The designation is based on a municipality meeting benchmarks in adding housing units “across the board,” not just housing designated affordable.

Municipalities with Pro-Housing Community status that apply for grant funding are given priority by certain state agencies that are administering up to $650 million in discretionary funds. The governor has proposed making Pro-Housing Community status a prerequisite for grant funds from participating state agencies.

To receive the designation, municipalities must take action through multiple methods including streamlining permitting for — and enacting policies that encourage — multifamily housing, affordable housing, accessible housing, accessory dwelling units, and supportive housing; adopting policies that further fair housing; incorporating regional housing needs into planning decisions, and increasing development capacity for residential uses.

To date, there are 20 Pro-Housing-designated communities, with only one, the Village of Mineola, on Long Island. Designations are subject to annual renewal.

To achieve Pro-Housing Community status, a municipality must provide the state with its zoning map and a summary of its zoning code, as well as detailed housing, planning, and building permit information for 2018 through 2022. It also has to demonstrate that there has been a growth in housing stock in the town by either 3 percent over 2020 through 2022 or by 1 percent in 2022.

As the town saw a roughly 1.9-percent increase in new housing units over the past three years, it does not automatically qualify for Pro-Housing Community status. The 2020 United States census found that there were 19,801 housing units in East Hampton, so to meet the state-imposed growth threshold for Pro-Housing Community status, “we would have had to add 594 new housing units between 2020 and 2022, or 198 in 2022,” Ms. Pilgrim said. “The total building permits for new residential construction over that three-year period was 379,” or 1.9 percent.

If a municipality has not met the state threshold, there is another path to the designation: It can adopt a resolution provided by the state that acknowledges the housing crisis and pledges to take steps to alleviate it. Those steps mirror the aforementioned actions with respect to streamlining permitting for housing initiatives, adopting policies to further fair housing, and increasing development capacity for residential uses.

The town has already taken several steps to address the housing crisis, Ms. Pilgrim said. “We have per capita the most affordable housing units of any town on Long Island,” she said. “This is through the work of the town board, the East Hampton Housing Authority, as well as private entities such as Windmill Development.” There are multiple ongoing initiatives under the All Hands on Housing program; a Section 8 housing choice voucher program; a home ownership program; an anticipated Plus One accessory dwelling unit program, a state program that provides grants for the construction of accessory apartments that is expected to begin soon, and the Community Housing Fund, pursuant to the referendum that approved a half-percent transfer tax. “Our Community Housing Advisory Board has been working on that program and how it’s going to function,” Ms. Pilgrim said, “and we expect to be issuing a request for application for various types of projects in the coming months.”

In order to apply to be a Pro-Housing Community, the town must submit a letter of intent. Upon receipt, the town would get a link to access a state website where data from the Building, Planning, and Housing Departments would be entered. The town board would pass a Pro-Housing Community resolution and enter its zoning map, zoning code summary, and housing, planning, and building permit information for 2018 through 2022.

Supervisor Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said that a letter of intent has been drafted. Should the board approve adoption of the Pro-Housing Community pledge, scheduled for a vote at its meeting tonight, it will be sent tomorrow.

“I think this is a great opportunity for the town to get in front of all the other municipalities competing for the same pot of money,” Councilman David Lys said, noting that the town has already moved to streamline the permitting process for accessory dwelling units and affordable housing.

“I’m hopeful that with the projects that we have online now and ones that are coming in the future we will easily meet their target goal,” said Eric Schantz, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development. “I think you can even say we are already a pro-housing community, we’re just not officially designated as such. I think if we continue the way that we have been, we’ll get most of the way there, but the way that we have been isn’t enough to address the housing crisis, and we are going to make sure that we’re going to be increasing the rate of affordable housing units that come online. I have no doubt that we can meet that target goal.”

“We look forward to being officially a Pro-Housing Community,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said. 


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