By Danny Schrafel
The Huntington Township Housing Coalition, an advocacy group for increased affordable housing opportunities, says that a failure to address an ongoing gap in housing is putting a drag on the region’s economy.
A report released in October 2014, which was filed in response to application for a federal HUD community development block grant, the Housing Coalition cited another report issued a year earlier by the Regional Plan Association, titled “Long Island’s Rental Housing Crisis,” which concluded that a “shortage of affordable rental homes is already straining Long Island’s economy, and will make it much harder to compete for jobs in the years ahead.”
Drawing those high-paying, high-tech jobs to Long Island, officials have argued in recent years, is critical to plugging a growing exodus of Long Island-educated young people known as “the brain drain.” According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of young people dropped by 15 percent from 2000 to 2009, the biggest drop in the New York metro region, the Housing Coalition says. That itself is a big blow to taxpayers. It costs about $300,000 to provide a K-12 education for the average student here, and when they move to other parts of the county, take that education with them to their new home.
What it all circles back to, according to Dick Koubek, the Housing Coalition’s president, is a failure by the Town of Huntington to meet its own goals -- laid out in Horizons 2020, the town’s comprehensive planning document -- to greatly increase the amount of affordable homes in town.
Koubek contends the town needs to have created 2,789 affordable homes by 2020 to meet the need laid out in a Rutgers University study. So far, 592 are planned or being built. Of those, 146 are the controversial Matinecock Court complex in East Northport, a project which has been stalled for decades. Just one-fifth of the 592 units are set to be rentals.
“Given the clear disconnect our report demonstrates between the goals for creating more affordable housing, particularly rental housing… we call upon the town to develop in its consolidated plan and community development block grant application for 2015 concrete plans that will actually transform these worthy goals into brick and mortar affordable homes,” Koubek wrote.
However, town spokesman A.J. Carter stressed that progress has been made.
“In the past year alone, AvalonBay, with a percentage of affordable units, opened; construction began on The Club at Melville ; and the housing suit was settled with the agreement to build the affordable, limited equity co-op now called Highland Green” on Ruland Road in Melville, he said. The Club calls for 261 age-restricted homes on Deshon Drive, at different levels of affordability; the 117-unit Highland Green project is the long-awaited affordable housing offset to The Greens at Half Hollow.
Further chipping the housing shortfall, Carter said, is widespread construction of apartments over storefronts in Huntington village, as well as new apartments on Gerard Street and the upcoming Ice House project on Stewart Avenue.