Southampton Town holds lottery for 7 affordables in Flanders

10/14/2012 10:00 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | This Flanders Boulevard property has been abandoned for several years. It is one of seven in Flanders that have been seized by Suffolk County and given to Southampton Town for affordable housing efforts.

Flanders resident Suzane Fialho glanced over at the vacant lot next to her parents’ home. The ranch-style house, abandoned and decaying, was covered in vegetation and a tree limb had fallen onto its roof. Weeds and trees had taken over the lawn and a long green vine reached through an open window into what was likely the living room.

Ms. Fialho said her family moved to the neighborhood four years ago and watched as the property went to ruin.

“We had neighbors before who just didn’t care,” she said.

Now, through a Southampton Town affordable housing program, a new building will soon rise on the property, as well as six others in Flanders. The work should be completed by next summer.

“I think cleaning up the neighborhood would be nice,” Ms. Fialho said.

The affordable housing project, developed by the town housing authority and the Long Island Housing Partnership, a nonprofit housing developer, using land seized by Suffolk County, will turn seven Flanders properties into three-bedroom, two-bath homes for lower- to middle-income, first-time homebuyers, officials said.

“Everything is ready basically to get the shovels in the ground,” said James Britz, senior vice president of the Long Island Housing Partnership.

The 1,300- to 1,400-square-foot homes will cost $153,000 to purchase and will be built by a private contractor. The seven properties are on Maple, Oak and Brookhaven avenues and Flanders Boulevard, Mr. Britz said. The houses should be completed by next summer.

The Sept. 13 lottery for the properties gave first preference to veterans, though none took advantage of the offer, officials said. Residents of Southampton or those who work in the town were next in line before the lottery was opened to the general public.

Of the 55 people who signed up, 11 were chosen for the seven Flanders lots and other properties available in Southampton Town, officials said. The lottery winners will need to meet several requirements, such as having a steady income and the ability to secure a mortgage.

Five additional lots in Riverside have already been given to the town by Suffolk County already, but Long Island Housing Partnership officials said they don’t know when those properties would be available through lottery.

Southampton Town Housing Authority executive director Richard Blowes could not be reached for comment.

Most of the properties were made available through Suffolk County’s 72H program, which converts lots that were seized for tax violations into space for affordable housing.

“Every once in a while there’s a lot that could be used for a municipal purpose, including for affordable housing, as a way for the towns to address the shortage of places for people to live in the community,” said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk).

The affordable housing was available to those who make between 80 and 120 percent of the median income, Mr. Schneiderman said. Though town officials could not be reached to provide the exact figure being used for the program, 2010 U.S. Census data shows the median income for the area was $81,250 per household in that year.

The eligibility extends above the median income because of high housing prices in Southampton Town, Mr. Schneiderman said.

“In the economy we’ve seen through the last few years, even making above the median income you still could not buy a house,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “If you’re priced out of the housing market, [the program] should apply to you.”

But Mr. Schneiderman hinted that tighter budget constraints may force the county to stop the program in the future.

“There’s been some talk recently about suspending the program because the county is so broke we can’t give things away,” he said. “I’m hopeful that it’ll continue.”

Vince Taldone, vice president of the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association, whose members have worked with the housing authority on past programs, said some residents disagreed with the town when officials first proposed using some of the lots for rentals. The town later scrapped those plans.

“Bringing in affordable home ownership was what everyone wanted,” Mr. Taldone said. “We want to have people who are fully invested in the neighborhood.”

Lottery winners, none of whom could be reached for comment, will also receive a landscaping stipend that lets them pick and pay for shrubs or flowers to decorate their yards to enhance the curb appeal of the neighborhood, he said.

Cesar Umana, a former Southold resident who moved six months ago to Flanders, which is a racially and ethnically diverse community, described the neighborhood as “a little different” than less-diverse Southold.

He believes the affordable housing will help the area by increasing the tax rolls.

“It definitely can build up some revenue,” he said.

Another resident down the road, who asked to remain anonymous, said he doesn’t care whether the housing is affordable or not, so long as the homeowners are good people.

“Black, white, Spanish, it don’t matter,” he said. “We got a mix of people around here … It’s not the house, it’s the people who live there.”

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