According to Long Island Index, 30 percent of renters in the Town of Southampton are spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, well above the recommended 30-percent threshold. The project of the Rauch Foundation that provides objective data on the region’s condition, presents comparisons with nearby suburban areas, and highlights challenges identified by the data also shows Southampton needs more than 6000 workforce housing units to serve the existing waitlist.
The NRP Group LLC, in the multi-family rental business, proposed a solution to help tackle the town’s problem: a 180-unit complex in Quiogue.
The company presented preliminary plans to the town board at a March 5 work session, and while the members understand and have worked to tackle affordable housing needs, they met the proposal with apprehension.
“I think density triggers a lot of community concern,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “Traffic is one of them, there’s the environmental impact — nitrogen getting in the bays and things like that — school taxes. Will the school have to build an additional building or expand to accommodate it and will property taxes go up?”
Jonathan Gertman, vice president of development for The NRP Group, said the plan for a 17.5-acre lot at 644 Montauk Highway behind Strebel’s Laundromat south of Old Country Road and within the Westhampton Beach Union Free School District would provide approximately 10.3 homes per acre. There would be 80 one-bedroom units (44 percent), 52 two-bedroom (29 percent), and 48 three-bedroom (27 percent). Currently, there is no price range for monthly rent. It will be in flux dependent upon income and whether the county or state contribute funding.
“This proposed project is 100 percent workforce housing, which means that rents must be limited based on the Area Mean Income (AMI),” said Jon Schnieder, a The NRP Group spokesperson for the project in Quiogue . “The NRP Group will work closely with the Southampton Town Board and lo- cal community to develop a project that meets local needs, and under Southamp- ton’s town code, a significant portion of the units will need to be for families earn- ing between 30 to 80 percent of AMI. We expect rents for those units to fall in the range of $627 to $1,760 for a one-bed- room unit, including utilities.”
According to the Long Island Index, rising costs in the area have resulted from insufficient multifamily construction over the past several decades and a spike in seasonal vacationers willing to pay premiums for temporary rentals. The proposed workforce housing, serving those who make the town run on a day-to-day basis like town employees, teachers, civil servants, and retail workers, is considered affordable when the rental cost, plus utilities, comes in under a third of a person’s income.
“For me, I believe that we should attract more young people to our schools depending on the size and numbers and trends of enrollment as well,” Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni said. “I believe this is a good spot. Transportation is a little bit of an issue — everyone will be driving presumably — but I like the concept of affordability.”
The complex would contain color-coded two-story buildings representative of the area, and a walkable village concept with a central community building incorporating a lounge and fitness center. Gertman said his company would be open to looking into getting a bus stop potentially along Montauk Highway to connect the complex to neighboring downtowns.
“The comment we get most often that is the biggest compliment for us is ‘I can’t believe it’s workforce housing. I can’t believe it’s affordable housing.’ And that’s something we really pride ourselves on,” he said. “We want to create an attractive, extremely high quality, really luxury workforce, convenient, safe, and reliable community.”
There are four different building types at varying lengths and sizes to create what Gertman calls a “healthy mix” of units. While The NRP Group is a national builder operating in 12 states, it is based in New York City, and Gertman said architects and construction workers are always local. The group partners with multiple Melville-based companies, like BHC Architects, which developed plans for the town library and David W. Crohan Community Center/Flanders Senior Center.
“We’ve looked at the landscape of affordable housing on the South Fork. We want to show we did our research,” Gertman said. “We also have the ability to do what we say we’re going to do and follow through and have the financial ability to do that.”
Southampton has continued to tackle the affordable housing issue by updating accessory apartment code, and building the 28-unit Sandy Hollow Cove and 38-unit Speonk Commons apartment complexes. Neither have been close to the scale The NRP Group is proposing, although Sandy Hollow sits on just 2.6 acres. A housing study was also recently approved by the town board.
“I want to see more of these, and I know pricing is controlled by zoning, but the density still worries me,” Councilman John Bouvier said. “This site also has some history of groundwater
The proposal boasts a state-of-the-art community that will emphasize sustainability, energy efficiency, and green technology. It would achieve Enterprise Green Community certification and feature Energy Star appliances, electric vehicle charging stations, and low-flow toilets. Vapor barriers under the buildings were recommended by town Planning and Development Administrator Janice Scherer in her department’s early response report, which the company agreed to. The site itself is clean, with some sand mining done in the past that the town wants more information on, but methyl ethyl ketone, or MEK, had been detected around the area. It is most likely associated with dry cleaning via the laundromat, town officials said. The Francis S. Gabreski Airport, with groundwater contamination issues of its own, sits northwest of the property.
Gertman said NRP approached management of the neighboring mobile home facility to inquire about a joint sewage treatment facility, but was rebuffed because they did not want to disturb the property. Schneiderman said the town would consider offering incentives to do so.
“I usually say we need affordable housing east of the Shinnecock Canal because of traffic, etc., but that’s not to say we don’t need affordable housing there. We need it throughout the town,” Schneiderman said. “But the scale on this . . . We haven’t done anything close to 180 units. Speonk Commons and Sandy Hollow are probably more dense than this on a per-acre basis, but 180 units is well beyond anything we’ve done.”
Under the multi-family PRD code, Scherer said four to six units per acre is typically recommended, and eight units per building. There is also town code stipulation that in order to bump up the density within an overlay district, there must be a connection with a nonprofit corporation, a qualification The NRP Group currently does not meet. A future school district impact analysis would also need to be done to determine any payment in lieu of taxes.
Gertman said his group will assess ways to meet the criteria and potentially lower the density, while town officials reach out to community members to gather input for themselves. He said his company reached out to the Citizens Advisory Committee West, The Quiogue Association, and other community members, businesses, and nonprofits, and received positive feedback.
“There’s a lack of workforce housing in Southampton. You all have already taken significant steps to try to ameliorate and also just identify the problem, which is sometimes the hardest thing, just saying it out loud. Then, we humbly come with a plan that we think can advance in a significant way part of a solution to that problem,” Gertman said to the board. “We can make a big dent on a property that makes sense. It fits.”