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Dear Independent,

This is in response to Karen Fredericks' letter in last week's Independent concerning the single affordable home being built on the Town property next to her house.

The same East Hampton Town Urban Renewal Plan that created Ms. Fredericks' less than 20,000 square foot lot also created the 20,000 square foot lot (i.e., a builder's half acre) the Town is making available for the construction of a home under the Town's affordable housing program. The forest cleared from the Town's lot is undoubtedly similar to the forest cleared from Ms. Fredericks' lot 10 years ago when her house was built. The 1657 square foot home to be built on the Town's lot is smaller, but not by much, than the 1860 square foot house Ms. Fredericks co-owns. There is absolutely no basis, in fact, for her assertion that her neighborhood and other neighborhoods that include affordable homes would in any way be downgraded. Comparable building materials are used inside and outside the residences. Not only do sales transfers and appraisals bear this out, but "drive bys" as well you cannot "pick out" the affordable lot from any others as the property is in conformance with the neighborhood.

East Hampton is a very high housing cost community. Federal tax policy, which allows for the deductibility of mortgage interest and property taxes, according to the Tax Foundation, " . . . encourages larger and more expensive homes among a relatively small share of taxpayers, rather than promoting broad-based home ownership among ordinary Americans." Any person who takes advantage of these deductions pays less federal income tax than a renter of the same income, hence these homeowners are being subsidized by renters of the same income.

Ms. Fredericks would have us believe that the appreciation over the last 10 years has been solely the result of her and her neighbor's plantings. Undoubtedly, Ms. Fredericks and her neighbors have taken good care of their property as I believe the new homeowner will. There is also little doubt that some of the appreciation can be attributed to the millions upon millions of dollars spent for land acquisitions in the Town of East Hampton. There can be little doubt that many of the environmental protection measures taken over the last 10 years including town wide up zonings have contributed to the rise in land prices.

Quite simply, the Town is providing a building lot for a local family (who Ms. Fredericks knows is not a Town Employee because I so informed her) to build a home similar to Ms. Fredericks' on a lot similar to Ms. Fredericks'. The family will be leasing the land and will be buying the house. They will not be receiving all of the appreciation but their mortgage payments will be affordable because of the land subsidy. The rent on the land and the taxes on the house combined together will be the equivalent of the property taxes as if the home were built on the open market.

Editor's Note: Since yours will be the only house in the neighborhood with aluminum siding, it will be clearly obvious from the road unless it's Stevie Wonder who is doing the drive by. Your assertion that the hundreds of millions of homeowners in America who worked to afford their little piece of the American Dream are somehow subsidized because mortgage interest is deductible is so idiotic it defies credibility. The Alternate Minimum Tax has in many cases rendered the mortgage interest deduction a moot point.

Homeowners pay you, fund the schools, and pay for these ridiculous houses your office is giving away through their property taxes. Like most public servants in office and in the school districts around here, you seem unaware that everything you spend including money for the land preserved came from the backs of taxpayers, and most of that was bought with CPR money funded solely by homeowners.

Affordable housing advocates are like zombies, mumbling the same mantras they learn at Affordable Housing School, like "it won't devalue the properties around it." Anyone who thinks an affordable house doesn't adversely affect the value of neighboring houses is an idiot. In this case, two of the four homeowners adjacent to this house, both longtime neighbors, have already sold and moved because of your affordable house, so it already has adversely affected the neighborhood.

TOM RUHLE, Director of Housing Town of East Hampton
June 27, 2006


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