An affordable housing bill unanimously passed in the Assembly is now pending in the Senate. The bill, known as the Long Island Workforce Housing Incentive Program Act, sponsored by Tom DiNapoli and Michael Balboni in the Assembly and Senate respectively, would constrain a developer to set aside 10 percent of any new development (of five units or more) for families making no more than 80 percent of the area's median income. Similar legislation currently exists in the Town of Huntington.
If a local government finds that the setting aside of at least 10 percent of such units would have an adverse impact upon health, safety or the environment, payment of a reasonable fee to the local government, that shall constitute a trust fund, would be used exclusively by the locality for the purpose of providing such housing. All fees collected shall be kept in trust and separate from all other monies.
Further, municipalities would allow developers to build at greater density in return. The legislature intends that the "density bonus or other incentives offered by local governments shall contribute significantly to the economic feasibility of affordable workforce housing in new residential or mixed-use developments."
Some senators however won't support the legislation, citing it would undermine the zoning authority of local towns and villages. Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) had this to say: "In general I would prefer programs to assist the potential, individual homeowner. That way you would have a benefit you are sure reaches the desired person. The current proposal gives a bonus building parcel to the builder, only indirectly helping individuals."
Although he'd be inclined to vote for the bill if it came before him, Balboni has told Hannon it would not be put up for a vote in its current form. Hannon further pointed out that "everything the bill currently requires can be done now at the option of the town government (and several have done so)."
Some say reliance on local solutions to the problem has not produced enough affordable housing to meet the region's needs and the only realistic alternative may be state and regional legislative action.
The state legislature finds that "local governments have a responsibility to assist in the providing of a fair share of the regional need for affordable housing. Further, each local government has the responsibility to establish a land use plan for its community that provides balanced and diverse housing options for all segments of the community."
Balboni has urged supporters of the bill and local officials concerned that the legislation takes away their home rule to meet and try and iron out their differences about the legislation.
A representative from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the nation's largest community organization of low and moderate-income families, with over 150,000 member families organized into 750 neighborhood chapters in more than 60 cities across the country, never returned calls for comment.