Housing crisis

Hamptonville could solve the Hamptons affordable housing crisis

In November, residents of the towns of East and Southampton will find a referendum on their ballots which, if approved, will provide tens of millions of dollars in new funds each year to help residents own or rent houses here. Currently, they cannot. Real estate prices are too high. Residents are moving away and the fabric of our hometown culture is being torn. This isn’t just a problem for those leaving, it’s also a problem for those offering employment in the Hamptons. Employers cannot find workers.

Here is a personal story. When I first moved here in the 1960s, I bought a small 800 square foot cottage in the real estate section of East Hampton for $9,000. Brokers told me it should have sold for $14,000 and I got it at a bargain price. I lived there for three years and then sold it at a huge profit. I received $23,000 for this.

Over the next few years the cottage was sold again and again and about six years ago, still 800 square feet, it sold for $1.2 million. Last year the cottage was demolished and replaced with a McMansion ten times its original size which is now on sale for around $5 million.

A few people like me can tell you these stories. But others cannot. Someone paid them $1 million for their house and away they went. If they had stayed like me, they probably could have sold the same house now for $3 million. It’s crazy.

Some of those who leave, still loving this place, find nearby homes they can afford in Mastic-Shirley, Manorville or Moriches, then commute 45 minutes each way to get to a job in the Hamptons. Burn a lot of gasoline. Others moved upstate or to North Carolina. And so our native culture disappears. We simply become a home for the wealthy, and those who serve them (who cannot find help.)

Here are the details of this November referendum. The new tax will require all real estate transactions over $400,000 to be taxed at 1/4% of the amount over that threshold. For example, a buyer buying a house for $1.4 million would pay 1/4% of $1 million, or $3,500. That’s okay on a $1.4 million sale. But, had it been in effect in 2021 at Southampton, it would have brought in a total of $10 million.

Another aspect of the law would allow cities to participate in home sales to qualified buyers by providing up to 50% financing for the purchase. The city would retain this 50% ownership and equity for future sales.

As you probably know, a 2% tax is currently levied on all Hamptons real estate transactions over $250,000. The money collected, called CPF (for Community Preservation Fund), is used to purchase green spaces. In our example, this tax on a $1.4 million transaction yields $28,000. Over the past 20 years, this tax has generated nearly $2 billion. The results were new parks, beaches, fields, woods, farms, homes, workshops and studios of deceased famous people such as Jackson Pollock, Dominy family watchmakers and painters Thomas Moran and John Little, all now turned into centers of study and museums. . These enrich the cities. These are all wonderful amenities. The former home and studio of novelist John Steinbeck in Sag Harbor is now being considered for purchase.

Here’s how this proposed new 1/4% tax, called CHF (for Community Housing Fund) could be spent.

A winery or farm could construct a city-subsidized building for its workers.

A local person could build a subsidized cottage on their property for their children or parents.

A farmer or fisherman could receive funds to build a small cottage for rental income on their property.

A homeowner could receive funds to create a small apartment inside their home for family members or for rental purposes.

In our city centers, the second floors of shops and restaurants that currently only serve as offices could also be used for apartments.

In the undeveloped rural areas of Noyac or the North West, whole communities of small cottages could be built, owned by the towns and rented out to people who come here and work as firefighters, paramedics, hospital workers, nurses, lifeguards and policemen. Call these new towns East Hamptonville and South Hamptonville.

Low-cost housing developments could emerge on the highway. One is a 9.4-acre plot, formerly the Southampton Full Gospel Church on the Southampton Bypass, where a 64-unit low-cost housing project has languished in the Southampton Building Department for five years without approval . Current laws block such a project.

Or how about someone building a mansion on a site currently occupied by a teardown? Demand that they pay to move the disassembly so it can be reused. The de Menils did it with historic cottages in East Hampton.

Current Law 255-11-23 in the City of East Hampton currently prohibits bathrooms or kitchens in independent artist studios on single-family lots lest they be used as rentals. Repeal this law. New zoning laws passed could encourage rentals and sales of smaller homes next to larger ones. Current laws do the opposite.

I recently vacationed in Hawaii. A front-page story in the local Oahu daily celebrated the opening of kama’oku, a cluster of 37 tiny homes, each measuring just 10 feet by 10 feet. They have doors and windows, a bed, a desk, a chair and a bookcase. The state owns and rents these houses for $500 a month. A separate building on the property has a dining room, kitchen, bathrooms and living rooms available to tenants. And if a tenant can’t pay the $500, the island will pay it for them. The project is aimed at people who find themselves homeless, for a time, currently sleeping in their car or in tents on the sidewalks.

In anticipation of our November vote here, a group called Affordable Community Housing (or ACH) is hosting a day-long session with lawmakers, developers, bankers and local leaders on May 19 at the Church of Sag Harbor, at 48 Madison Street, with a last “town hall” session free for all at the end. Participate all day for $35.