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Jul 25, 2012 12:38 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Coast Guard Considers Selling Excess Military Housing In Westhampton

Jul 25, 2012 1:17 PM

The U.S. Coast Guard has an unusual housing problem.

Only 16 of the 52 houses that it owns in the Hampton West Estates development, located just west of Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, are currently being rented by Coast Guard personnel, prompting officials in the military unit’s Housing Department to consider selling some of the homes.

That idea, which is still being evaluated by Coast Guard personnel, is already alarming some residents of the 227-home development, most of whom worry that a decline in military housing in the community will eventually lead to a spike in rentals that are owned by absentee landlords.

Last week, Forest Markowitz, the president of the Hampton West Estates Residents Association’s Board of Directors, said the development, which was originally entirely dedicated to military housing, has seen a steady increase in home ownership over the past several years, a trend that, he said, has improved the quality of life for homeowners. Mr. Markowitz said he and others are concerned that if the Coast Guard sells its share of houses that absentee landlords will try to buy the properties and not maintain the rentals, as the Coast Guard currently does.

“We are very, very weary at this point,” Mr. Markowitz said. “We will support any plan that leads to owner-occupied housing over rentals.”

According to David Rivera, the local housing officer for the Coast Guard, less than 31 percent of the unit’s 52 rentals houses are currently occupied by military personnel. The remaining 36 homes are vacant, though they are still maintained by the Coast Guard. The other 175 houses are privately owned.

Mr. Rivera said this week that the Coast Guard is currently weighing several options, including possibly selling some of the houses to private buyers, as well as a potential deed swap with those who own properties near Coast Guard stations in Connecticut. One facility is located near New Haven while the other is in New London.

“There is a lot of stuff going on right now,” Mr. Rivera said. “There are many different options on the table right now, but I don’t think that the Coast Guard has made any firm decisions yet.”

In recent months, Mr. Markowitz said he and members of the Hamptons West Estates Residents Association began noticing a spike in the number of vacancies at the military-owned houses. After an internet search, Mr. Markowitz said he learned about the plan that will allow the Coast Guard to swap deeds with those who own homes near the Connecticut stations, where there is a need for additional military housing. As part of that arrangement, property owners in Connecticut would sell their homes to the Coast Guard in exchange for properties in Westhampton.

Mr. Rivera confirmed this week that swapping deeds is an option being investigated by the Coast Guard, but stressed that a final decision has not been made. He said that because military personnel are no longer required to live on an active base—they are given a stipend to cover their housing expenses off-base—there is no longer as great a need for military housing in certain locations, like on the East End. Another option for the houses, he said, is to just sell them on the open market.

“Typically, the family comes in, or a military Coast Guard member who is authorized to reside in housing comes in, and we will accommodate that family,” Mr. Rivera said. “Right now, there has been some changes in Coast Guard policy and a lot of people prefer to take the stipend and live on the economy rather than in government housing.”

Mr. Rivera referred more specific questions regarding the proposed deed swap to area housing officer Bruce Blackman, who works out of Boston. Mr. Blackman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

According to Sharon Frost, a former president of the homeowners association, group members shared their concerns with Southampton Town Housing Authority Director Richard Blowes, and he confirmed that there have been discussions regarding a potential deed swap with a developer who owns land in Connecticut. Ms. Frost, who said she does not know the name of the developer, said she and others are worried that, if the deal goes through, they will have no control over what the developer does with the former military housing.

“If he is planning to sell the properties, then that is great,” Ms. Frost said. “But if he is planning to work out a deal with the town that would use them as rental properties, then we have a problem—pretty much the entire neighborhood would be up in arms over that.”

Mr. Blowes, who was unavailable for comment on Wednesday, asked his secretary to relay questions to Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s office. Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone confirmed that the town has been approached by the Coast Guard, asking if it has any interest in the military housing in Westhampton. He said the town is interested and will soon discuss details with Coast Guard personnel. Mr. Zappone, however, said he does not know any specifics of the plan.

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BEWARE!!!!!! Once the Housing Authority gets it your all doomed towards a fight....Richard & Bonnie will fight it all the way...ie. The recent controversial Flanders/Riverside issue with regard to homeownership vs. rentals. Gee I wonder why the 2 Board Members that were all for Flanders/Riverside Rentals haven't said if their for this or not...Hummmm makes you wonder, and it shows FRNCA where their coming from.....
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Jul 27, 12 10:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hear Hear!!
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jul 27, 12 4:14 PM
“We are very, very weary at this point,” Mr. Markowitz said. “We will support any plan that leads to owner-occupied housing over rentals.”

SH Press, shouldn't this quote read "wary?"
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Jul 29, 12 9:19 AM
I am one of the occupants of on of the Coast Guard's houses. I would buy the house we are renting in heartbeat if given the chance.
By sunfishsailor (1), Westhampton Beach on Jul 29, 12 11:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
Of course the town should buy these homes and come up with a workable affordable housing plan. Owner occupied-no rentals.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 29, 12 10:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Southampton Town Housing Authority will see the light!!
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jul 30, 12 1:58 PM