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Hamptons Life

Oct 10, 2015 9:00 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

No Kids Allowed? In Housing, Limits Have Limits

An aerial view of The Hills at Southampton property in East Quogue. COURTESY AMY BETH STERN
Oct 11, 2015 10:29 AM

The would-be developers of a proposed residential and golf resort in East Quogue have brainstormed a way to guarantee that it would not mean more children for the cash-strapped East Quogue School District.

The developers, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, told the Southampton Town Board that home buyers at "The Hills at Southampton" could be required to sign documents agreeing not to live there more than 60 to 90 days per year. Because the school year is longer, this would essentially ensure that the school district will not have to educate more students, they said.

But opponents insist that such a guarantee is bogus, primarily because federal, state and other laws specifically prohibit such exclusions.

“If a developer refuses to sell to people with children, it would be considered discrimination,” said Carolyn Zenk, a former Town Board member and environmental attorney. “Families with children are considered a protected class.”

In fact, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

New York State also prohibits discrimination based on family status, disability, marital status, military status, sexual orientation, race or creed—exceptions are made for religious institutions—color, national origin and gender—single-sex housing such as male- or female-only dormitories is permitted. Also permitted is age-housing accommodations restricted to people 55 and older.

Ms. Zenk said an agreement stating that a homeowner would live in a house only part-time would never hold up in court.

But Mark Hissey, Discovery Land’s president, disagreed. “People tend to live in the Hamptons seasonally,” he said. “It’s a fact.”

“As I read the plan, it is intentionally designed to avoid an increase in the population of children in the schools,” said John Viteritti, a licensed real estate broker who teaches real estate licensing courses, including on fair housing laws, at New York University and the Cook Maran Real Estate School in East Hampton and Southampton.

“Whether this would be considered a violation of federal, state and local fair housing laws that have identified ‘familial status,’ children in the family, as a violation of those laws, should be a matter of consideration for the developers and the town officials,” he added.

Mr. Viteritti noted that the U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed that actions that result in “disparate impact” on a protected class, such as families with children, would violate the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act. Under disparate impact, the violation does not have to be intentional to be discriminatory.`

There are, of course, exceptions where restrictions are permitted by law. “You’re allowed to say, ‘I’m not going to rent to anyone below a certain credit score. That’s allowed under the Fair Housing Act as long as you do that for every applicant,” said Charles McNally, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Manhattan.

“To be honest, I think it would be one of those questions not easily answered,” said Ed Reale, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens and a founder of the North Fork Housing Alliance Inc., a private, not-for-profit housing agency.

And obviously, he said, there are situational prohibitions on family status: “There are condos in Westhampton that close in the winter, they prohibit you from living there full time.

“That’s not unheard of out here,” he continued. “I don’t know how they plan to pull this off, but there are places that do that,” he said.

Mr. Hissey acknowledged that a developer could not legally prohibit families from purchasing homes. However, a developer can legally cap the amount of time a family resides in homes, he said.

“[Homeowners] are limited with the amount of time they can stay on the property,” Mr. Hissey explained. “People think that’s impossible … but we don’t say you can never send your kids to school here. That would be illegal.”

The Hills at Southampton would feature 108 single-family homes, 10 condominiums and a golf course on 168 acres along Spinney Road. The developers estimate that it would generate $4.4 million in tax revenue for the East Quogue School District.

"At first blush, this raises questions of the potential for the familial status discrimination, but I think there is not sufficient information to really say one way or another at this time," concluded Scott Gehl, executive director of the western-New York based Housing Opportunities Made Equal, which fights for fair housing.

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If the residents are going to live there 60 - 90 days why is the golf course open for 8 - 9 months? "People tend to live in the Hamptons seasonally" Really, Mr Hissey? Your project is in East Quogue, why not market it as such instead of "The Hills at Southampton"? No matter how you spin the location most people in this community "tend" to live here full time.

Just how many of your "upscale" homeowners would buy here knowing it is located in EQ and it has NO golf course?

Mr Hissey, ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Oct 11, 15 8:49 AM
2 members liked this comment
Why do you have an issue with "upscale homeowners"? Without these people/seasonal residents the Hamptons would have no economy and the locals would be out of work. Concerning the name of the development, if the developer named the project "The Hills at East Quogue" the development would surely fail. You should be happy that there will be a beautiful golf course as opposed to the barren sand dunes and scrub oak. Your pollution and traffic argument is a bunch of hogwash.
By bigcitydude (4), medford on Oct 11, 15 8:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
Actually "Dude", without the "upscale homeowners" the Hamptons would still have a farm economy and would be like many other small towns. Quieter and more pleasant with many less rude obnoxious people and thousands fewer vehicles coming from up west everyday.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Oct 11, 15 8:33 PM
2 members liked this comment
The farm economy generates a fraction of the local revenue. Without employment in the services and local trades sectors the Hamptons would be a ghost town. If the locals were friendly and welcomed the tourists you would see a change of attitude with the people who feed you..

BCD
By bigcitydude (4), medford on Oct 11, 15 9:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have no issue with "upscale" homeowners per se rather how the "Discovery Land Company" is marketing this project. Mr. Hissey is touting this development for the very affluent/upscale who will only be living here part time keeping with the rest of the "Hamptons".

The vast majority of us who live in EQ do not consider our small hamlet part of the ultra rich "Hamptons" persona. The "Hamptons" is strictly a marketing tool for the developer.

"I should be happy that their will be ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Oct 12, 15 8:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
Dude - The vast majority of that "local economy" you speak of goes into the pockets just a few people and doesn't do much for the majority of locals. The vast majority of the money from employment leaves the area with the trade parade. Ever look at Sunrise Hwy at 6:30 in the morning? Without the perverted economy of the "upscale homeowners" the Hamptons would actually be a pretty nice place to live.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Oct 12, 15 2:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bird, and others with the same thoughts - What would you school taxes be with-out the part-time residents that pay full year school taxes and don't send any kids to them? Maybe DOUBLE?
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Oct 14, 15 8:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe half? OK, not really that low but probably quite a bit less. First of all we wouldn't have the huge number of illegals dumping kids into the school system at $30K a year. Get rid of all those kids and school construction costs drop significantly. Get rid of the excessive cost of living brought to us by wall street and school costs go down even more. Need I go on?
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Oct 17, 15 3:45 PM
Since the proposed development would be preserving over 420 of the 594 acres of land I would think the housing and/or golf course would have minimal impact on the current wildlife. Additionally the development would provide additional benefits to the local economy, through construction projects to the clubhouse and catering staffing.
By bigcitydude (4), medford on Oct 17, 15 10:40 PM
to bigcitydude:

Life out here will be so much sweeter when the last of the “barren sand dunes and scrub oak” (and the hawks, owls, foxes and other useless species that currently inhabit it) is replaced, at long last, by scenic, sculpted fairways devoid of such nuisances. It would be nice, as well, if the surly local citizenry could learn in the interim to warm to the sunny dispositions of the summer Manhattanites. If only the we could learn to treat them with appropriate deference!

How ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 12, 15 3:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
... strike three!
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Oct 14, 15 3:10 PM
..." could be required to sign documents agreeing not to live there more than 60 to 90 days per year"

Only 90 days per year, 3 months?
So my second home would be usable for June, July, and August...After those 90 days I will happily leave my property as September and October seem like such terrible months to be in EQ. I hear the Spring is pretty bad too so I am happy not to have to worry about spending any time at my second home in April or May.
Oh and it will be nice not to have ...more
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Oct 15, 15 7:44 AM
1 member liked this comment