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Finding Housing on Long Island

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The housing market on Long Island may be competitive and under-supplied, but new developments could provide a boost to those looking to stay in the area without emptying their wallets.

New housing developments could be the key to keeping younger families on Long Island and combat its competitive and under-supplied market.

At the “Finding Housing on Long Island” panel presented by REI at Stony Brook University College of Business, Kelley Coughlan-Heck, VP of Development at Long Island’s TRITEC Real Estate Company said the area’s challenges are rooted in its history.

Long Island became the site of America’s first suburbs in the 1940s and home to World War II veterans seeking single-family homes and the green lawns of Levittown. But Coughlan-Heck said the heavily use-segregated communities caused a host of issues for Long Island’s neighborhoods, including car-focused development and racial inequalities

The incentives for communities built around auto transportation led to unintended consequences, she said. Large box stores sprung up around highways and sucked business away from mom-and-pop stores in Long Island’s downtowns.

Today, Long Island is growing more diverse, with younger residents looking for walkable communities.

“Our housing stock has not changed in order to meet those changing compositions,” Coughlan-Heck said.

Long Island will need to add about 100,000 more rental units to keep up with the rising demand. Until then, she warned, housing prices will remain high. 

“It’s a supply and demand issue,” Coughlan-Heck said. “We are very under-supplied, which makes the cost of living higher.”

Michelle Abreu is the Director of Counseling at Long Island Housing Partnership, which works to provide financial tools and support for first-time homebuyers and those searching for affordable rentals.

“The market right now has exploded,” Abreu said. “Our clientele is having a hard time finding affordable housing out there.”

Abreau said developers should include more affordable housing in their developments, though Coughlan-Heck said financial institutions will only provide capital to projects that will give them a suitable return on their investment.

Local agreements to defer property taxes and grant programs help encourage developers to include affordable housing units in their developments, Coughlan said.

Coughlan-Heck pointed to the success of TRITEC’s New Village at Patchogue mixed-use development. In 2007 before the project began, roughly half of the storefronts in downtown Patchogue were vacant. Since New Village was completed, over two dozen new restaurants have opened in the area and local schools have seen a boost in funding through taxes.

While more mixed-use developments will help, developers and planners are starting to look to the “missing middle housing” movement to help meet the demand as well. Missing middle housing refers to options that fall between traditional single-family homes and larger mid-rise developments. 

These projects can include townhouses and smaller multi-family developments that are more suited to today’s needs.

Reza Ebrahimi, partner at the law firm Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo, LLP, said apartments in single-family homes are becoming a popular option — even if most are not up to local zoning codes and may be illegal.

“The local governments certainly don’t make it easy,” Ebrahimi said. “It’s more or less the wild west.”

Ebrahimi warned new renters to do their research, noting that leases often favor the landlord. 

“You have to be careful,” he said. “If you have access to an attorney and can afford one, it wouldn’t hurt.”

Ultimately, choosing to buy a home may be a more financially sound decision since it gives the homeowner equity, according to Meadowbrook Financial Mortgage Bankers Corp senior loan officer Mark Hopkins. 

But Hopkins added that new homebuyers should not go searching for homes before determining what they can qualify for and afford. While “everybody loves to see a brand new house,” seeking out a loan officer first before starting a home search can give you an idea of what your monthly payments would be in terms of mortgage, property taxes and homeowners insurance.

“I think we need to help our children be ready to purchase,” Abreu agreed.