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Legislation introduced to establish East End Town Community Housing Fund

New legislation introduced by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) could allow the five East End towns to establish a Town Community Housing Fund.

If created, the fund could be used to provide financial assistance to first-time homebuyers, create opportunities for owning and rental housing, rehabilitating existing buildings for community housing, counseling and education impact payment to local school districts under the proposed legislation.

One or two person households would have to be making less than $140,040, with a maximum purchase price of $938,649 for a single family home, to qualify for the Community Housing opportunity, according to a news release.

It would be funded by a 0.5 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax. The current 2 percent tax funds the Community Preservation Fund, which allows towns to purchase and preserve open space.

The legislation would also increase the exemption rate on the transfer tax for improved property from $150,000 to $250,000 in Riverhead and Southold towns, to attract affordable housing purchasers.

The exemption would rise from $250,000 to $350,000 in Shelter Island, East Hampton and Southampton.

The legislation was crafted over a yearlong period in which Mr. Thiele met with local housing stakeholders, his office announced Wednesday. “The legislation I have introduced for 2019 is substantially better and more comprehensive because of the input of local government, the real estate industry, housing advocates and civic leaders across the East End,” he said in a statement.

Ultimately, the decision to create a fund would be up the town boards to decide and be subject to a mandatory referendum.

To establish a fund, towns must adopt a community housing plan that would delineate recommended areas and ensure that the housing is not re-sold to those who are not income eligible.

The plan must also include a regional strategy that addresses the needs in the entire East End region. Twenty percent of each town’s fund would be devoted to implementing regional housing solutions, according to a fact sheet provided by Mr. Thiele’s office.

Based on 2017 revenues, the proposal would have generated $22.7 million for community housing across the East End.

Mr. Thiele said the lack of affordable housing has become a “crisis,” impacting how local employers hire, finding volunteers for emergency services and retaining both young and long-time residents. “This legislation will provide towns with a meaningful tool that can make a difference by providing housing opportunities for its residents at a much greater rate than they can with existing resources and programs,” he said.

The legislation now moves to the Local Governments Committee in the Assembly, which Mr. Thiele chairs, for consideration.

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