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WLNG
May 24, 2006

Riverhead Closes On Affordable Housing Unit


A concrete step forward in an ongoing quest for affordable housing was announced in Riverhead recently.

Supervisor Phil Cardinale said last week that the Town of Riverhead closed on May 11 with the buyer of an affordable housing unit recently constructed on Horton Avenue. The property was transferred from the county to the town in 2005 for exclusive use as affordable housing.

"I am pleased that the town was able to acquire this blighted property and quickly contract with a builder to complete this home," said Cardinale.

The supervisor added that he is pleased to see a family that has resided in Riverhead for 19 years selected for affordable home ownership. In addition, Cardinale commended Riverhead Community Development Agency Director Andrea Lohneiss, for her work on the project.

Under the conditions of the transfer of title from the county, the town was required to construct an affordable housing unit on the Horton Avenue property within three years for sale to a purchaser whose total annual household income from all sources did not exceed the income eligibility guidelines established by the Suffolk County community development director, or $71,100 for a household of four. The purchase price of the home was $177,000.

"I look forward to the town's next affordable housing project which should result in nine affordable housing units," said Cardinale.

Recently, Cardinale asked Lohneiss to prepare requests for proposals that could pave the way for additional long-awaited affordable housing in town.

Lohneiss went before the town board at a recent work session to discuss the terms of several request for proposals for an affordable housing project.

The project involves nine sites garnered by the town from the county. The land was given to the town with a promise to create "next-generation" affordable housing, said Lohneiss.

That's welcome news for some residents who have been waiting on town lists and renting in Riverhead for years.

The key, said Lohneiss, is that the town does not fund construction; builders fund the projects themselves. After the houses are complete and purchased by qualified applicants, they will pay the builders themselves for the cost of construction.

Individuals who receive the affordable housing must live or work in Riverhead, with a median of no more than 80% of the area median income of Suffolk County.

In addition, prices of homes would go up consistently based on the median income in the area, not inflation, said Lohneiss.

"In the past, the board would keep homes affordable for a specified period of time," said Cardinale, which has traditionally been 10 years. Discussed was the possibility of extending that time period. Lohneiss said the board would decide soon if 10 years was a long enough time period.

"I want to make sure we have affordable units 10 or 20 years from now," said Cardinale.

One question bandied about was how to ensure that affordable houses remain affordable. Should a buyer decide to sell within 10 years, said Cardinale, the home would have to be sold to someone "similarly situated" in regard to income when the home was purchased.

If a homeowner decided to sell to someone not in that similar income range, said the supervisor, they should "not be able to pocket the difference between the controlled price and market value."

Cardinale said the board is working out the details of the RFPs, which will be sent out to interested developers and builders.

"We've had an affordable housing program for many years," said Cardinale, noting that the town two years ago completed a project in Millbrook with 17 homes.

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