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Oct 27, 2010 11:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Housing Director Back In Town's Cross-hairs

Oct 27, 2010 11:57 AM

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s proposed 2011 budget would eliminate the last vestiges of the town’s former Housing Office just seven years after it was created—transferring the few final duties now assigned to its director, John White, to the town’s Housing Authority.

If the $125,000 in proposed savings from the supervisor’s cuts are not restored in the final budget, Mr. White will see his job cut from the town budget for the second time in as many years, in addition to seeing his salary reduced by the Town Board in 2008.

The new proposed cut is just the latest entry on the embattled town official’s resume, which also includes a lawsuit against the town, alleging racial bias. Mr. White is African-American.

Meanwhile, town officials—most notably the supervisor herself, as well as her predecessor—have criticized Mr. White’s tenure as housing office director, pointing to a lackluster list of accomplishments and scant new affordable housing created.

Ms. Throne-Holst said Mr. White has been offered a part-time job at the Housing Authority, an independent agency funded partly by the town that owns and manages the scattered handful of affordable housing projects that the town has created since it took up the mission of providing affordable housing for residents in 2003. Despite heady aspirations, those efforts have yielded limited successes—primarily in senior and rental housing for low-income families.

The supervisor’s frank assessment: “The affordable housing effort in this town has been beyond dismal.”

Mr. White has refused to comment on the elimination of his position, his record as the housing director, the success and failures of the Housing Office during his tenure, or his pending discrimination lawsuit against the town, which alleges that he did not receive salary increases at the same rate as other department heads. He did not return numerous phone calls to his office over several weeks, and when approached in person at Town Hall said he could not comment on anything to do with his job.

Former Supervisor Linda Kabot eliminated Mr. White’s position, director of housing, in her final budget before leaving office last fall, but Ms. Throne-Holst restored it after taking over the town’s top office. She explained that Mr. White had claimed he would be able to cover the cost of his current $80,000 annual salary by bringing in more grant money that wouldn’t be received without him. That didn’t happen, she said.

In this year’s budget, Ms. Throne-Holst’s proposal would transfer administration of the town’s federal community development grants—his last remaining official duty, according to the supervisor—to the Housing Authority.

“It’s going to be a far more efficient service model by putting all of these housing entities under the hat of the Housing Authority,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “There will be a great pooling of resources and talent there. They have a very active board, and it becomes a sort of private-public partnership that I think will serve the town very well and very cost-efficiently.”

One clerical employee working under Mr. White will take advantage of the state’s new early retirement program, which Southampton Town adopted last month, and a second will be transferred to another department, according to the supervisor’s proposal.

Ms. Throne-Holst said Mr. White also qualifies for the early retirement program, which would pay him between 75 and 80 percent of his salary, along with full medical benefits.

A final shift of Mr. White’s duties to the Housing Authority would complete the piecemeal migration of all the responsibilities once assigned to the Housing Office to the town’s independent housing arm. The Housing Office itself was eliminated in 2008, and Mr. White’s position was transferred to the Community Development Office, along with an accompanying $20,000 cut in salary.

Created by the Town Board in 2003, the Housing Office was charged with overseeing the creation and management of affordable housing projects within the town. According to the legislation creating the department, the housing director’s responsibilities included the management of municipally owned housing projects, planning and implementing the construction and sale of affordable housing units, and finding public and private financing for affordable housing projects. When the town’s Housing Authority was created a year later it was charged with creating and managing the town’s rental units.

The Housing Authority was made a separate entity from the town so that it could take ownership of rental properties and accept rent from tenants. Its board is made up of five appointed volunteers who are paid an annual stipend of $2,500 for their service.

Since 2003, the town has created about 45 affordable housing units, mostly in the form of reduced rent apartments created through increased density incentives granted to the developers at the Courtyards at Southampton in North Sea and Westhampton Pines. The town’s most ambitious housing project to date was the Bridgehampton Mews development: eight new single-family homes built on town-owned land with a mix of state, federal and local funding support and sold to buyers selected by lottery for between $118,000 and $189,000 in 2005. The Housing Office was also involved in the purchase of another 37 apartments in Hampton Bays that are used for senior housing. The town has additionally purchased two other vacant properties, one in Tuckahoe and one in North Sea, earmarked for single-family home developments similar to the Bridgehampton Mews effort.

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Putting the oxymoron in "public servant", another town employee sues the town (i.e. the taxpayers) while the administration blames him for its own failures.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 27, 10 6:06 PM
He's still here? Why? I though he was cut in 2009.
By highhatsize (4177), East Quogue on Oct 28, 10 5:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is really ashame that we do not create affordable housing for young single people and young families to try and keep workforce in the town. The town has chased away many businesses from the area which has caused me to start working further west and NYC. I love living in Hampton Bays and have been a resident for over 25 years but find it harder and harder to make it out here. I make about 3,200 a month and pay 1750.00 in rent for a small apartment. It is a nice but small apartment. I have looked ...more
By fetupwithSHT (16), Hampton Bays on Nov 4, 10 4:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
Have you tried Town & Country Garden Apts on Montauk Hway near Villa Paul's? Their apts are nice and I don't think they are as expensive as the one you have now.
By baywoman (165), southampton on Nov 8, 10 4:52 PM
Separate and apart from Mr. White's dismissal for incompetence is that the townspeople have to pay the pension of 75%-80% of his salary that he qualified for after only 7 years of employment. Nothing like that exists in the private sector. Ms. Throne Holst in June said she hoped to cut spending by 15% by 2012 but the 2011 budget will increase taxes by over 2%. The public unions need to make concessions and future contracts have to exclude such public largesse.
By Get Real (1), Southampton on Nov 7, 10 4:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
Terry, you can skip this comment, it's about the STPD cops costing too much.

No one has brought up the subject of retiring some of the $150,000/yr. cops that the Chief doesn't want. If the Town Councilmembers enforced the law as written, we would save over a million dollars annually AND get a more efficient and less insubordinate force.

However, the specter of Linda Kabot, drunken driver, looms over the pusillanimous Council. Once she is found innocent of the drunk charges, prescribed ...more
By highhatsize (4177), East Quogue on Nov 8, 10 10:38 AM
Mr. White, let's not sue the town for racial bias. This type of suit is beginning to be a joke.
Also, Why are these cops being paid $150,000 a year when the New York city police earn 1/2 or less than that and are getting shot at every day.
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Nov 8, 10 4:19 PM
To Longislander:

Glad you asked. The Southampton Town Council allows any cop who so wishes to remain on the force beyond his twenty year anniversary even though the Town code states that he WILL retire on that date.

According to the code, officers with twenty years or more of service remain on the payroll on a year-to-year basis at the pleasure of the Town Council. This provision enables the force to hire officers who are still physically able to do jobs that the older cops are ...more
By highhatsize (4177), East Quogue on Nov 9, 10 2:07 PM
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