The New York State Senate passed a bill sponsored by Senator Ken LaValle on Monday that enables towns in the Peconic Bay region to establish housing funds to combat “brain drain,” a potentially crippling economic and social phenomenon that has young professionals emigrating from Long Island.
“It is critically important that we provide towns with the tools to battle the loss of our young adults,” LaValle said. “We are spending tens of millions of dollars educating students in local community colleges and universities only to have them move to other parts of the country when they graduate.”
The housing fund would provide low-interest loans or housing for first-time homebuyers in towns including East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold.
“This measure will enable us to help retain our young talent and encourage them to plan their futures here and stay on Long Island,” LaValle said.
The availability of affordable housing for moderate-income and working-class residents has become an increasing concern for Long Island residents who fear that their children will be unable to afford to continue living, working and starting families on Long Island. According to LaValle, businesses are also struggling to hire and retain employees as potential candidates leave the island and relocate elsewhere. Another concern of the senator’s is that the lack of affordable housing is forcing residents to live in substandard and even illegal conditions.
“We cannot afford to have this ‘Brain Drain’ continue,” LaValle said.
The funds, which would be financed by a combination of state and local money, would adhere to “smart growth” principles. These principles consider variables beyond just expanding housing and funding and would include availability of transportation, sewage infrastructure and conservation measures.
In 2011, LaValle urged towns and school districts to support the extension of his First-Time Home Buyers program. The original law allowed local governments to grant first-time homebuyers of newly constructed homes a five-year property tax exemption. The first year rate of exemption started at 50 percent and decreased by 10 percent over the next four years.
At the time, LaValle said, “Owning a home is still the American dream.” He added, “There are many residents who would like to remain on Long Island, but feel it makes more sense to live and work in an area where housing is more affordable.”
This latest bill has been transferred to the state assembly for further consideration, and only after a successful referendum would the housing plan and funds be established.