Judith Garrido wanted to raise her two daughters with an affordable home of her own in the town of Southold.

“I have two daughters, my partner and I have four of us, and the apartment we live in is getting smaller and smaller for us,” Ms. Garrido said in Spanish. “So, we’re looking for something that’s more comfortable, but houses are very expensive these days, so we’re looking for something that’s more comfortable to price and more comfortable to live in.”

Ms. Garrido has lived in Southold for ten years after coming to the United States from her native Guatemala. That’s why she joined 25 other Spanish-speaking residents for an information session in Spanish last Thursday night at the Southold Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation about the town’s proposed community housing plan .

Urban planner Mara Cerezo’s 45-minute presentation was translated into Spanish by CAST Customer Support Coordinator Daniela Menjivar. Ms. Cerezo and Ms. Menjivar outlined the housing plan, explained next steps, and encouraged discussion by answering questions and comments from the public.

Ms. Cerezo’s speech explained why the town needs a housing plan, highlighting the Community Housing Fund passed in a referendum last November, which imposes a 0.5 per cent transfer tax on property purchases and requires municipalities to spend any money received before it can be spent. A plan must first be approved. be spent. She reviewed data on town demographics as well as current local housing stock, types of housing available, and current home buying and rental market prices.

The planning department decided to hold the meeting in Spanish because census data showed that the town of Southold’s Hispanic population grew 51.6 percent between 2010 and 2020. Additionally, a town housing survey conducted last fall showed that 63 percent of respondents knew someone who left Southold because of housing challenges.

The goals of the community housing program include increasing the inventory of affordable housing through the construction of community housing and accessory apartments through low-interest loans; maintaining and supporting existing community housing; Low-interest or no-interest “hero” loans that increase a first-time home buyer’s chances of home ownership.

Ms Cerezo said she hoped the plan would be ready by next spring. However, she advised interested residents to register their names with the affordable housing registry immediately. The registry, maintained by the town’s Housing Advisory Committee, assists the town in making interested residents aware of available affordable housing and helping match them with suitable units. Under the current draft, household incomes to qualify for registration must be less than 120 percent of the Suffolk County median income, which is $111,600 as of 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Several participants asked how they would be eligible to benefit from the community housing program once it was in place.

Construction worker Felix Corte and his domestic partner, Iris Contreras, were in attendance. The couple have lived in Greenport for 16 years. He was one of two people who asked whether legal immigration status was necessary for eligibility.

Ms. Cerezo noted that there are certain requirements for loan eligibility, but she needs more information from the town on immigration status issues.

“We still have doubts,” Coulter said after the meeting. “I think it only applies to people who live here legally. On the other hand, [it seems] Like those who are excluded are the ones who don’t have the documents and many times the documents are required. “

“This is a huge benefit for us,” Ms Contreras added. “We don’t own our own house, we have to rent a house, and besides that, our income is very low and it is difficult to buy a house.”

this 82-page draft community housing plan Created by the Southold Community Housing Fund Advisory Board. The group included real estate and construction professionals, local business owners, bankers, town employees and representatives of nonprofit organizations, as well as consultants from Nelson, Pope and Voorhis LLC.

The plan comes after voters in four of five East Side towns approved real estate transfer fees to fund area housing solutions as part of the Peconic Bay Area Community Housing Act. According to the advisory committee, the transfer fee will not impact residents’ property taxes and could generate more than $1 million in annual revenue for community housing in the Town of Southold.

The town has been collecting the tax since April, but cannot spend any of the revenue until the town board holds the necessary public hearings and approves a final plan for how the tax will be spent.

Questions and concerns from community members about the draft plan — including those raised in the meeting and others emailed to the town — will be aggregated and presented to the board when the final plan is submitted for approval.

Ms Cerezo said it was great that residents were interested in the fund and wanted to know more.

“People want more details, they want to know how this plan will affect them,” she said. “I think that’s something that we want to bring back to the town council to make sure we have enough detail that people feel comfortable that they’re actually going to adopt the plan and that they really understand the different members of their constituency and the concerns they put them in. Bring it to the table.”

Assistant City Planning Director Mark Terry, who also attended Thursday’s presentation, noted that the plan would “really infuse [affordable housing] Once started, the ground unit … people [seeking a home] They need voices, they need hope. Hopefully this 0.5% will give them hope going forward. “

Also in attendance was Anne Smith, a member of the town’s housing advisory committee and the Democratic candidate for town board.

“I think listening to the community now is the most important step,” she said.

The town will host two other presentations on the draft community housing plan. One is scheduled for Thursday, June 22 at 5pm at Town Hall, with optional attendance via Zoom. The final presentation will be held in the Mattituck-Laurel Library on Tuesday, June 27th from 5pm to 6:30pm.

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