Affordable housing planned for Riverside

Two affordable houses are being planned for Riverside on properties that were acquired by Suffolk County through tax defaults and given to Southampton Town.

The properties, to be developed by the Southampton Housing Authority, contain structures that officials say are falling apart. One property is on the east side of Vail Avenue, near the intersection with Pine Street. The other is directly behind it and fronts on Old Quogue Road, although the town lists it as being on Vail Avenue, officials said.

Whether the homes will be owner-occupied or rented is one concern for two civic groups with conflicting views about affordable housing.

The 10-year-old Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association has consistently told town and other officials that it doesn’t want additional affordable rental units in it neighborhoods, and its members have frequently opposed any kind of affordable housing in the past. They say housing in the three hamlets is already the most affordable in town.

But the newly-formed Riverside Revitalization Committee has listed the creation of additional affordable housing as one of its goals and does not share FRNCA’s opposition to rentals. The RRC reportedly sent a letter to town officials saying they do not oppose affordable rentals on the two properties.

The two Riverside sites were given to Southampton Town on the condition that they be developed as affordable housing within a certain time frame — otherwise, the county may take them back. The town housing authority, which has a mission to provide affordable housing in Southampton, also has plans to build seven affordable houses in Flanders that will be owner-occupied, at the request of FRNCA.

The issue of whether the Vail Avenue houses should be rentals or owner-occupied was debated at a FRNCA meeting on Monday. FRNCA member Richard Naso criticized group president Brad Bender for not giving FRNCA’s input on the issue to the town. But Mr. Bender, who has announced his intention to run for the Town Board, said FRNCA shouldn’t interfere on an issue that’s in another organization’s area; input in this case should come from the RRC, he said.

“I don’t believe it is our place to step on their feet on something that they want in their specific neighborhood,” Mr. Bender said. He said he had told the Riverside group he would support its opinion on the issue.

“How come we don’t know about it?” Mr. Naso asked.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said in an interview Tuesday that she had sought feedback from the RRC, but she stressed that a no decision had been made about what type of housing will be built on the sites. She said that further input from FRNCA was welcome.

Richard Blowes, executive director of the Southampton Housing Authority, also said in an interview that no decision had been made on the rental vs. ownership issue. But he said the Section 8 rental housing subsidy program should not be looked at as a bad thing, because many senior citizens would not be able to afford a place to live without it. He said one option being examined was a rental with an option to buy.

The Southampton Town Board recently authorized acquisition of the properties from the county and their transfer to the housing authority.

No one from the RCC was present at Monday’s FRNCA meeting and RRC organizer John Parker did not return calls seeking comment by presstime.

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