A new neighborhood for displaced Horton Avenue families?

05/10/2011 4:00 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Horton Avenue in Riverhead last April 1.

The nonprofit Long Island Housing Partnership is proposing an affordable housing development in Riverhead Town that would set aside new affordable homes for displaced Horton Avenue flood victims.

The organization has identified several properties in town where it could build, said Diana Weir, the group’s executive vice president.

Although the project would be open to all who qualified, preference would be given to about five Horton Avenue families who lost their homes in the March 2010 storm.

“We hope to accommodate them all in one location, so they will still be near their friends and neighbors,” Ms. Weir told the News-Review.
The houses would all be owner-occupied, she said.

Ms. Weir said the housing partnership will seek county affordable housing money to offset land acquisition and infrastructure costs, which would enable it to sell the houses at below-market prices. It’s not known at this point what percentage of those costs would be covered by county money, she said, nor is it known how many houses would be proposed.

It’s hoped that the flood victims will receive state Emergency Management Office grant money to offset the loss of their homes, That money can be used for down payments on houses the Long Island Housing Partnership hopes to build, Ms. Weir said.
The families were displaced after a three-day rainstorm flooded the low-lying Horton Avenue neighborhood last March, leaving some houses under several feet of muddy water for more than a week.

To date, the federal government has ruled out grants for the Horton Avenue flood victims, but the state has not yet made a decision.

Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said he had planned to issue a request for proposals from companies seeking to build housing for the Horton Avenue families. Now that Long Island Housing Partnership has come forward with a plan of its own, however, that the RFP is not necessary.

“It will be the same as if a private landowner was proposing this,” Ms. Weir said.

The housing partnership will also provide things like free mortgage and down payment counseling for prospective homeowners. It would hold a lottery to determine who gets first shot at the homes, Ms. Weir said.

The county approved a bill earlier this year to give victims of natural disasters preference in affordable housing programs, but that law applied only to projects on land given to towns by the county through its 72H program, which gets the land from tax defaults. It was later learned there were no such suitable parcels in Riverhead Town, Mr. Romaine said.

After recognizing this, town and county officials met with Horton Avenue residents in late March, which led to the plan to build houses elsewhere in Riverhead Town. That, in turn, led to the housing partnership’s involvement, Mr. Romaine said.

tgannon@timesreview.com