It’s Wainscott’s Turn

Hamptons Editorial

The East Hampton Town Board will hold a public hearing when it meets at 6 PM Thursday, January 17, on a proposal to develop a four-acre site on Route 114 with up to 30 units of affordable housing.

The town is buying the site from the Triune Baptist Church of East Hampton, which owned the property for more than a decade and has abandoned plans to build a church there.

The property is next to the former Cottages, an eight-unit affordable complex, that was acquired by the Sag Harbor Housing Trust several years ago. The trust, established when the developers of the Watchcase condominiums in Sag Harbor Village were allowed to make a donation in lieu of providing on-site affordable units, snapped up the Cottages rather than let the property go onto the open market, where rents would have surely skyrocketed, forcing out its working-class tenants.

In recent years, East Hampton Town has been making steady, if slow, progress in its effort to put a dent in the affordable housing crisis that makes it harder and harder for locals to stay in their home town and for the people who toil in low-paying jobs to live in decent conditions. The Accabonac Manor House project will soon yield 12 new affordable units, and the 531 project in Amagansett will create another 38 affordable apartments.

Although the property now being eyed is just outside the Village of Sag Harbor, it is in the Wainscott School District. And if past efforts to develop affordable housing in Wainscott are any indication, we can expect this one to be accompanied by plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth from school district officials.

We get it. Wainscott, like its neighbor to the west, Sagaponack, boasts high real estate values, a low school population, and minuscule school taxes that are the envy of taxpayers living in neighboring school districts. Although the district has seen its enrollment rise sharply when expressed in percentage terms, its total number of students remains low.

There are now affordable housing developments in the Montauk, Amagansett, and East Hampton school districts. Springs, by virtue of its small lots and middle-class housing stock, is already the de facto site of most of the town’s affordable housing. The time has come for Wainscott to provide its share.

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