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Jun 27, 2012 1:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Flanders Residents Blast Southampton Town Board Over Rental Proposal

Jun 27, 2012 1:36 PM

More than a dozen members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association pleaded with the Southampton Town Board this week, asking that it not allow five new properties in Flanders, land proposed for affordable homes to be built by the town, become rental properties.

Voicing concerns that if the houses became rentals they would just add to the already sad condition of a neighborhood blighted by lack of upkeep to rental properties, the residents said the town should instruct its Housing Authority to abandon a survey of area residents that asks them if they would rather see rentals or homes constructed and sold at a discount, as will be done with seven other properties later this year.

“You alone can decide whether this is affordable homes for returning war veterans or middle income families, or rental homes administered by an absentee landlord,” said Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association (FRNCA) Vice President Vincent Taldone at Tuesday evening’s Town Board meeting. “Adding people who have a vested interest in the neighborhood is the way to go. We oppose the kind of option that is before you.”

The ire of Flanders residents was raised back in April when the Housing Authority, in announcing that it would put five new properties seized by Suffolk County for non-payment of taxes into the town’s affordable housing pool, said it planned to send out a survey to all hamlet residents asking them if they would prefer that the houses to be low-income rentals or subsidized homes for single-family ownership. The survey is not slated to be conducted until later this summer.

The residents in attendance on Tuesday insisted that the survey didn’t need to be done because the community is already awash in inexpensive rentals.

“Last year we had a vote on this topic and everyone in the association at that meeting said they were against rentals,” said Asher Lee, a member of FRNCA. “In 2005, I was on a blight study and we drove up and down, talking about what was going to be done. Here we are seven years later and none of that is done. One house—the curtain is a black garbage bag. It’s very discouraging.”

But some Town Board members raised the possibility that perhaps the group’s membership does not represent the opinions of the majority of residents in the community, noting that there could be a need for rental properties in the area for those who cannot afford the down payment required for a mortgage.

“Part of the reason [the Housing Authority] want to do rentals somewhere is because of the folks that can’t afford a down payment,” Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said. “In order to qualify, a family has to make [$86,000] a year or less but, at the same time, has to qualify for a mortgage, that’s a tricky place to find yourself.”

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst defended the Housing Authority’s plans and said that if the sentiment of the community does, in fact, echo the opinions of FRNCA’s membership, then the rental idea would be dropped.

Ms. Throne-Holst also sought to dispel the fear that, if the houses were to become rentals, they would add to the surrounding residential blight.

“There is something we should be clear on: If the Housing Authority is handling any rental anywhere, the town is the landlord ... we are not an absentee landlord,” she said. “It is in our interest to make sure that what happens at these properties is in everybody’s liking.”

Mr. Taldone countered that if the town decides that rentals are in the community’s best interest, he would rather see another organization, like the Long Island Housing Partnership (LIHP) or Habitat for Humanity, receive the properties from the county because they would build homes that would be sold to owners who would make the homes their primary residences.

“If you’re not on the block ... you are an absentee landlord,” he quipped. “I’ve spoken with LIHP ... they said if they were offered these properties they would take them and build single-family houses. The owners ... cannot rent them, they must be primary residences. We have greater confidence that people who buy a house to own it are better vested in the neighborhood.”

The Housing Authority and LIHP announced just this week that 11 new three-bedroom homes, seven of them in Flanders, would be awarded by lottery to qualified buyers and sold for just $150,000 each.

Town Council Aide Hired

The Town Board agreed to hire a new legislative aide this week for the Town Council office, filling a position vacated when a previous aide transferred to a different department.

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The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton community is greatly concerned that Supervisor Throne-Holst and Council Member Bridget Fleming speak about the need for affordable single family rental development but both fail to suggest a single other site for single family rentals say, in the communities where they live or ANY Southampton community other than Riverside. The two would not identify a single location where existing town owned property would be developed for tax exempt, single family rentals. ...more
By Vince Taldone (8), Riverhead on Jun 28, 12 10:34 AM