December 13, 2006

At Long Last . . . Affordable Housing Lottery A Reality

Christmas came early in Southold this Saturday.

The mood at Southold Town Hall was celebratory this weekend as residents and elected officials crowded the room for the town's first-ever affordable housing lottery.

As names were called, those entered in the lottery jumped up and down and cheered with excitement.

"It was wonderful to see," said Marianne Garvin, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Community Development of Long Island, Inc.

Saturday's event was the culmination of a year of hard work and many discussions between Southold and the Community Development of Long Island, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that assists families and small businesses with services that support housing opportunities.

The Cottages at Mattituck, the town's first affordable housing project, calls for 22 affordable homes to be built on a 7.4-acre parcel bordered by Factory and Sound Avenue in Mattituck.

The proposed project is the first to make use of the town's brand-new affordable housing district (AHD) legislation, which opens the door for such opportunities.

One half of the 22 stand-alone two-bedroom, wood-shingled ranch homes will be sold at $184,000 to eligible buyers in town making less than 80% of the median income — $58,250 for a family of two or $72,800 for a family of four. The remaining units will be sold at $218,400 to eligible buyers in town making 100% of the median income — $72,800 for a family of two or $91,000 for a family of four.

In April, the Southold Town Board voted on a change of zone from R-80 to the new AHD district zone and on the transfer of 10 sanitary flow credits that would allow the project to proceed.

According to Phillip Beltz, special projects coordinator for Southold Town, each of the 48 names entered in the lottery was pulled. The first 38 were Priority 1, or applicants that live and work in Southold Town; the rest drawn were Priority 2, or applicants that live in the town but work elsewhere.

All of the applicants will be asked to go to the CDC's office in January to recertify themselves, with Priority 1 applicants going first. Applicants will be asked "to show the money," said Beltz, and verify all documentation to ensure that they do, indeed, have commitments for mortgages from lenders and still qualify for homes.

Each of the lottery applicants had received pre-approval from financial lenders who have agreed to accept the covenants and restrictions of the town's affordable housing legislation. Applicants have undergone home-ownership classes and attended a housing fair, where they met with potential lenders.

The lottery was attended by Legislator Ed Romaine, Southold Town Councilmen Dan Ross and Bill Edwards, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, members of the CDC, and Jim Morgo, director of housing and extra development for Suffolk County. Each town board member took turns pulling approximately 10 names from an old-fashioned rotating drum.

"To create housing for our families is not an easy task," reminded Russell.

The supervisor acknowledged former Town Supervisor Josh Horton and the efforts of the previous town board, including former Town Councilman John Romanelli, who was present, toward drafting affordable housing legislation that would allow such events to transpire. Russell also commended Beltz's efforts toward creating a town affordable housing registry. "No matter how good legislation or concepts may be you still need a driving force to make sure it happens. Phil was the man who got it done," he wrote in an e-mail after the event.

Garvin said she and the CDC were thrilled to move forward and create new affordable housing and that families are educated and mortgage-ready. "The only discouraging thing is that we can't help all of the people who are ready to buy a house."

To that end, Russell and the town board said they are "invigorated" by the Cottages at Mattituck and look forward to future opportunities to build more affordable housing.

"The CDC would love to work with the town for another development," said Garvin.

Beltz said the lottery was extraordinarily inspiring. "It's a wonderful time of year for this to be happening. People have worked hard and received their just rewards for their efforts."

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