There is an urgent need for affordable housing – particularly rental housing – for young people in Huntington. This fall, a dozen members of the Young Professionals of the Huntington and Melville Chambers of Commerce participated in an extraordinary conversation about this housing shortage with leaders of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition. The Young Professionals already had heard the grim statistics about the “brain drain” of young people off Long Island because they cannot find housing. In fact, these young people are the faces behind the statistics. None of them was surprised that Huntington is one of the affluent towns on Long Island losing the largest number of its young people because rental housing and starter homes are just not attainable here.
The young people in the room ranged in age from 26 to 42. They were men and women, black, Hispanic and white, all with college degrees, all business professionals. They want to live and work in Huntington. Most cannot. One young person is renting in Mastic Beach with an almost two-hour round trip commute to her Huntington job. Others expressed real anger and frustration that, at almost 30 years of age, they are still living with their parents because they cannot find an affordable rental apartment. Some asked outright why the Town has allowed so many affordable senior homes to be built while creating very few housing opportunities for their generation. And, throughout the night, there was real sadness that some of them may have to leave a Town they love simply because they cannot find housing here.
Here is some of what the young professionals told us:
• “I love Huntington and really want to both live and work here. But I can’t find a place to live in this Town.”
• I set my 30th birthday as the benchmark for moving out of my parents’ home. But that birthday came and went and I am still living with them because I cannot find an affordable rental.”
• “I am a college graduate earning $40,000 a year which is not enough to afford a Huntington rental but too much to qualify for affordable rental housing.”
• “Why does the town keep building affordable homes for senior citizens and nothing for our generation? We are the ones being forced to leave. We are the ones they should be trying to keep in Huntington.”
• “After spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars educating us in Huntington’s public schools, we move away because we can’t find housing in Huntington.”
Our conversation was not just a gripe session. By the end of the evening, our Coalition and the Young Professionals committed to work together educating and advocating for more affordable rental and ownership homes in Huntington. Each of the Young Professionals organizations pledged to create an Affordable Housing Committee and several members are taking directors’ seats on Huntington Township Housing Coalition.
Perhaps the most important point made that night was that the voice of young professionals must be heard by Town officials. Going forward, We are sure they will be heard.
On Tuesday, October 6th, over our Coalition’s objections, the Town Board adopted arbitrary and vague restrictions on two-family homes that will require applicants wishing to either convert a one-family to a two-family or construct a new two-family home. Among these restrictions, which far exceed those required of applicants who want to create an accessory apartment or a non-owner occupied rental, are:
- Having to show a “severe hardship” in order for the application to be granted;
- Constructing the two-family home so that it “appears” to be a one-family home, without any definition as to what a one-family home should “appear” to be;
- Owning the home for at least five years.
The Town Code now virtually excludes two-family homes from being created, which is why over the past several decades, only .08 such homes have been approved per year. These restrictions are but another wedge causing young people to leave Huntington because they cannot afford to find a home here.
Two-family homes provide another important housing option that could expand the stock of desperately-needed affordable housing in Huntington. How desperate is this need? Just last week, on the evening of September 29th, HTHC leaders met for two hours with a dozen Young Professionals from the Huntington and Melville Chambers of Commerce to discuss their housing needs. All are college graduates, employed in Huntington and very anxious to live in our beautiful town. But they cannot because we simply do not have rental or ownership housing that they can access. They are angry and frustrated. Here is some of what they told us:
•”I love Huntington and really want to both live and work here. But I can’t find a place to live in this Town.”
•”I found an affordable rental apartment in Mastic Beach, but I now have to commute almost two hours round-trip to my Huntington job I’d give anything to find an affordable rental in this town.”
•”I set my 30th birthday as the benchmark for moving out of my parents’ home. But that birthday came and went and I am still living with them because I cannot find an affordable rental.”
•”I am a college graduate earning $40,000 a year which is not enough to afford a Huntington rental but too much to qualify for affordable rental housing.”
•”Why does the town keep building affordable homes for senior citizens and nothing for our generation? We are the ones being forced to leave.”
• “We know the statistics about the brain drain. We are the actual faces behind the large numbers of young people moving out of Huntington due to the lack of housing.”
It was on their behalf that HTHC opposes the restrictions placed on two-family homes. We hope to meet with Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, sponsor the the resolution, to discuss mitigating some of the Code’s more onerous restrictions.
Wednesday, September 16th, HTHC Steering Committee member Roger Weaving spoke at a Huntington Town Board public hearing in opposition to Resolution 2015-392 that would place even more onerous restrictions on the conversion to or creation of two-family homes in R5 districts. Two-family homes, while rare in Huntington, are yet another housing mode which can add to the stock of much-needed affordable homes in the Town, thereby helping to stem the flow of young people out of Huntington. The current law requires that a single- family home converted into a two-family home be at least five years old and that the applicant for the conversion show “hardship” if the request is not granted. The proposed amendments would require that an applicant show “severe hardship” before a two-family home can be either converted or constructed. Both the original law and the proposed amendments are filled with arbitrary and vague language, such as a requirement in 2015-392 that the two-family home “appear” like a single-family home, with no language in the legislation that describes what a single-family home should “appear” to be. HTHC is therefore opposing 2015-392 and has called on the Town Board to revisit the original restrictions on two-family homes. You can read the HTHC letter to the Town Board here: HTHC two family homes FINAL letter
A September 6th, 2015 New York Times editorial titled, “The Architecture of Segregation,” observed that, almost 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted, “minorities find themselves trapped in high poverty neighborhoods without decent housing, schools or jobs, and with few avenues of escape” because, in part, “federally subsidized housing for low-income citizens … is disproportionately built in poor areas….” This pattern of confining low-income residents to communities with significant minority populations – like Huntington Station – while denying them a chance to live in ” high opportunity” communities – like Dix Hills – has been encouraged by programs such as New York State’s administration of the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits program. According to ERASE Racism, “families living in ‘affordable housing’ subsidized by Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) are excluded from opportunity and have to accept failing schools, high concentrations of poverty and racial segregation. This is because New York State’s scoring system that is used to determine which projects will be funded, places scant emphasis on projects that are located in high-opportunity neighborhoods.” To counter this policy, HTHC supports ERASE Racism’s petition calling on New York State to grant LIHTC subsidies for affordable housing in high opportunity neighborhoods. Please sign the petition at: http://www.eraseracismny.org/get-involved/sign-a-petition