Posts Tagged ‘section 8’

Leaving Long Island

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Discouraged by the lack of affordable housing, young people are moving elsewhere

By Alex Costello

 Part one in a series, “Plugging the brain drain.”

For the past decade, Long Island has been losing college graduates and young professionals. The high cost of living and lack of affordable housing has forced them to leave the area in droves.

The phenomenon is known as the “brain drain.”

In 2000, 12.86 percent of the population of Long Island was between ages of 25 and 34. By 2008, that had dropped to 9.98 percent. According to the Long Island Index, 22 percent of the population of 25- to 34-year-olds left Long Island in that eight-year period.

“Long Island sends kids away to these great universities, and then they leave,” said Chris Capece, the development director for AvalonBay Communities on Long Island. “They don’t come back.”

The explanation is twofold: First, the cost of living on Long Island is too high for young people to afford. Second, even if they could afford it, many young people don’t want to live here.

“When a kid’s coming out of school, he doesn’t jump in and buy a single-family home. It just doesn’t happen,” said Capece. “So what’s happening is that there are other places where a 23-year-old can get a one-bedroom apartment and live in it. Or a two-bedroom flat and split it with a roommate. That does not exist here on Long Island, and it’s in other places, which is why people are moving to other areas.”

What rental housing there is on Long Island is expensive, by any measure. In 2000, about 55 percent of rentals on the Island cost less than $1,000 a month. By 2006, only 23 percent did. And by 2006, 38 percent of rentals cost over $1,500 a month.

According to Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index, rentals account for only 17 percent of Long Island housing. In Fairfield County, Connecticut, 28 percent of housing is rentals, and in Westchester County, 37 percent. “We have not built the number of rental units that are typically what a young person can afford,” said Golob. “So it makes us much less affordable. The numbers are very striking.”

The fight for affordable housing

Other than a few isolated pockets in places like Rockville Centre and Long Beach, there is simply not much rental housing on Long Island. “It has to do with … how Long Island has grown,” said Golob. “Where would you be able to put more rental housing?”

According to Capece, the lack of rental housing drives up the price of what does exist — a simple case of supply and demand. And it is extremely difficult for developers to get approval to building new rental units. “There are no parcels of land on Long Island that are already zoned for multi-family development — they don’t exist,” said Capece. “But what you have … are large tracts of land that are zoned for single-family residential homes. So what will happen, and how Long Island has been built up over the years from a residential standpoint, is with single-family subdivisions.”

The reason, Capece explained, is that it’s easier for developers. When buying a parcel of land already zoned for single-family homes, developers have two choices: either build homes or try to get the land rezoned so they can build something else. But a decision to change the zoning is at the discretion of the municipality that has jurisdiction over the area, and residents tend to oppose affordable rental housing when it comes before the boards of their municipalities.

“About three and a half years ago,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, a community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, “we realized in our organization, through going to different town board meetings and trying to help to create some affordable housing in the Hamptons, that most of the time the opposition comes out to oppose anything that gets proposed.” To combat the “not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, mentality, the LIPC created a YIMBY campaign (for “yes in my backyard”). It is a group of people, including members of unions and civic organizations, who go to board meetings and petition in favor affordable housing.

Many observers agree that part of the reason there is so much opposition to affordable housing — also known as work force housing — is that there is a general lack of understanding about what it is. “We don’t work towards creating Section 8 housing,” said Silva-Farrell. “We’re talking mostly middle-income families. And the reason is that we realize that middle-income families can’t really afford to stay on Long Island. That’s why it’s such a huge emigration of people.”

Section 8 housing, technically known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is government-subsidized housing for low-income families and people who might otherwise be homeless. But that is not what advocates of affordable housing want.

“What’s being missed is kind of that band in the middle between the haves and the have-nots,” said Capece. “It’s the young writer, it’s the policeman, the teacher, the nurse — those are the people that are being missed. It’s not the person that’s making $15,000, it’s the person making $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 a year that’s being missed.”

By all accounts, Long Island residents, especially the elderly, are very concerned about what adding an apartment complex to their neighborhood would do to their home values. “We did a survey a couple of years ago in which we asked people the degree to which their long-term retirement savings was based on the value of their home,” said Golob. “And more so than in other areas, the degree to which Long Islanders are dependent on their homes for their retirement is very high. Scarily high.”

Because of that, Golob explained, Long Islanders are determined to keep their neighborhoods as they have always been. “You have to maintain everything the same, and that’s really not a recipe for a changing economy and a changing world,” Golob said. “But people don’t see that. They don’t understand it.”

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Advocates: Play Ball With AvalonBay

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

By Danny Schrafel –


Advocates: Play Ball With AvalonBay

Supporters urge town board to approve zoning for 530-unit housing development

A nearly three-hour marathon hearing regarding a 530-unit housing development in Huntington Station brought out a wide range of supporters along with pointed concerns about affordability, traffic, infrastructure and Section 8 housing in the development.

More than 50 people spoke at the Huntington Town Board’s public hearing regarding AvalonBay Communities’ proposal to invest $120 million to create 424 rental units and 106 for-sale town house homes located one-third of a mile from the Huntington train station. Of those, 132 will be market-restricted workforce housing – the largest such creation of workforce housing on Long Island. More than 1,100 people could live in the development, AvalonBay officials said.

The hearing was intended to address two issues – creating a special zoning district called the Huntington Station Transit Oriented District (HSTOD) that would allow for 20-unit per acre density and changing the 26.6-acre tract to that zoning designation once it is created.

Nat Board, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, the group that marshaled many of the supporters Tuesday night, framed his analysis by painting Huntington as a baseball team that needed all of its players – seniors, young people and growing families – in the game to thrive.

“If some of our players have no chance at all to do their best, then all of us are the less for that,” Board said. “Team Huntington needs all the strengths those people have to give, but they have to be able to stay here… they need AvalonBay and we need to give it to them. And so we say to manager [Frank] Petrone and his four coaches – please, play ball with Avalon.”

Eaton’s Neck resident John Lineweaver, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Marines, likened AvalonBay to Levitt developments for soldiers following the war.

“I am here because I’m motivated to express my concern and support for the up-and-outs living with the down-and-outs, and that’s what affordable housing is all about. That’s what America is all about,” he said. “We need to support young, skilled workers’ capacity to live in our hometown.”

Major focal points of concern and opposition were focused on the project’s density and impact on infrastructure like roads and sewers. Councilman Mark Cuthbertson stressed that concerns would be sent back to AvalonBay and Vice President for Development Matt Whalen for a response to be placed on the record.

“How do you fit 530 units on 26 acres? There’s only one way to do that. You build four-story buildings,” Matt Harris, who lives blocks form the proposed building site, said. “I’m not opposed to townhouse apartments on this property. It certainly beats the hell out of having the homeless … but four-story buildings? That’s a bit much.”

However, AvalonBay spokesperson Judy White said the site plan does not include any four-story structures, and the three-story buildings are to be situated at the rear of the property near the railroad.

Huntington Station resident Rich McGrath lashed out at the town board, accusing them of violating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the town not to concentrate low-income housing developments in Huntington Station.

“What I am totally opposed to was high-density, low-income housing that always found itself in one place,” McGrath said. “Where are the Donald Piuses, where is all the Section 8? Huntington, or maybe South Huntington… when you propose high-density, low-income housing, it’s always in one school district. The U.S. Supreme Court told this town, ‘stop it. It’s illegal.’”

McGrath said he initially supported AvalonBay because of the private sector investment and accused the town and AvalonBay of trying to sneak Section 8 housing into the Huntington development. Supervisor Frank Petrone said if management discovered qualified Section 8 tenants through their screening process for affordable units, they couldn’t dismiss a tenant just for that reason.

“As they review it and they find someone qualified, if that person happens to have a Section 8 certificate, you really can’t deny them. That’s federal law,” Petrone said.
Huntington Station Enrichment Center Director Dee Thompson threw her support behind the proposal and dismissed McGrath’s concerns about potential Section 8 tenants in AvalonBay.

“All of this hullabaloo about Section 8 – Section 8 people have to live also,” she said. “It’s affordable, there’s nothing wrong with it, so all of this is nonsense. If you manage properly, you won’t have to worry about who lives in the units.”

When the development is populated, each resident is expected to have less than 1.5 cars, while parking is being provided for 1.9 automobiles per head, a point of concern for several speakers. According to Tom Mazzola, of VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture, traffic studies based on standards in the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ trip generator manual and years of studying AvalonBay properties on Long Island indicate the Huntington Station development would generate an average of 266 vehicle trips during the weekday morning rush, 322 in the afternoon weekday rush and 273 during the Saturday rush.

Whalen said if a demand becomes apparent for shuttle service from Avalon to the train station, it’s something they would explore. They are also in talks with HART to re-route a bus to create a stop at the AvalonBay community. He said he has walked the route for the proposed walkway, and the density of the community, security, lighting and walkability improvements would make it a safer path to the train station.

Petrone urged Whelan and AvalonBay to continue their work with the community, and particularly those with concerns or in opposition.

“Lights, traffic and these are still things that still need to be discussed. These are things I’m sure we’ll be able to work through,” he said. “I will pledge to continue to work with you and the communities in attempting to make this a reality… the ultimate goal is something I don’t believe many people are in opposition to.”
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