10/20/13 10:00am
10/20/2013 10:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Local realtors Jerry Cibulski (left) and Thomas McCarthy are members of the North Fork chapter of the Long Island Real Estate Group helping to transform this blighted Orient property into a new Habitat for Humanity house.

Real estate agents don’t typically find themselves on the construction side of the housing trade but members of the North Fork chapter of the Long Island Real Estate Group are feeling right at home helping with construction of a new Habitat for Humanity home in Orient.

It may not look like much now but the blighted property on Greenway East will soon be the site of a modern residence for a needy family in Southold Town.

From the moment chapter president and local realtor Thomas McCarthy first posed the idea of helping to fund and build the Habitat home early this summer, all 200 North Fork members were on board, he said.

“As a group of professionals we wanted to get together and give something back to our community,” he said. “It is a great cause. As brokers, we know that it’s a struggle for many working families to afford a home. We figured, what better way to help a local family in our own backyard?”

The group recently held a fundraiser at the Soundview Restaurant in Greenport, raising more than $2,500 toward demolition of the existing structure and construction of a brand-new home. Once the abandoned home has been razed and it’s time to start building, the realtors plan to get their hands dirty, Mr. McCarthy said.

The new Orient home will be the first Habitat property in Southold Town, according to Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk president and CEO Diane Burke.

The journey began earlier this year when the site was identified through Suffolk County’s 72H affordable housing program, which is designed to turn repossessed properties over to local communities that, in turn, offer homes to low-income families.

Suffolk County offered the property to the town in March and has since provided $10,000 in funding for the project through a community block grant.

The town recently allocated the grant money to assist Habitat for Humanity with demolition and cleanup of the blighted property. It also waived fees for disposal of demolished materials at the town transfer station.

Phillip Beltz, the town’s special projects coordinator, welcomed the prospect of bringing more affordable housing to Southold.

“We are in dire need of affordable housing,” he said in July. “When I first started here the lack of perpetual affordability was one of the greatest oversights I noticed.”

At present, Southold Town has only 22 affordable housing units that are covered by restrictions regulating the resale price — all of them at The Cottages in Mattituck, Mr. Beltz said.

Town officials also put out a request for proposals for 40 affordable apartment rentals spread out across the town, but no specific plan is currently in place, Mr. Beltz said.

The added bonus of working with Habitat for Humanity, he said, is that the organization ensures that the property will remain affordable. Habitat retains a stake in the property so that if the home is sold, it can use much of the appreciation to continue its programs.

Habitat will also write a covenant into the deed requiring that house be sold at an affordable price to another eligible family.

Pending the closing of the Orient property within the next couple of weeks, Habitat officials hope construction can begin by early November and that the house will be ready by spring 2014.

Mr. McCarthy said he is currently soliciting donations of time and materials for the project from local contractors.

“I believe as a community this is something we can do ourselves,” he said. “Something for the locals by the locals.”

Habitat’s director of development, Les Scheinfeld, said support from the realtors has gone a long way toward getting the project on track.

“We are so excited they want to work with us,” he said. “They have raised money and gained the support of local contractors. It’s a great partnership.”

Habitat will work with the town to develop a strategic construction plan tailored for the site.

Southold’s housing department will begin accepting and screening applications for the property after the closing.

Candidates must meet structured town and Habitat income guidelines and, if selected, must agree to contribute hands-on build time, or “sweat equity.” They would also need to complete classes and perform community service as part of the down payment on their new home.

cmurray@timesreview.com