Saving Homes – A Plan for Affordable Homes in the Hamptons
Down the street from where I live in East Hampton, bulldozers are preparing a site on which they will erect a 50-unit low-cost housing complex.
There is an urgent need for social housing. And both summer visitors and locals need it: locals because they hope to rebuild the fabric of a small-town community overwhelmed by high real estate prices, and summer visitors because, with the locals leaving, there has a severe labor shortage. . Fifty affordable units, which will cost millions, is just a drop in the ocean. What is needed is several thousand units. And I’d like to offer a solution that will meet the needs of summer visitors and locals alike, without costing our struggling municipal budgets a penny.
The fact is that the small housing units needed for HLMs are already there. There are, if you take an inventory, probably over twenty thousand. They are scattered in our community. And as it stands, there are fewer and fewer of them as wealthy summer visitors buy them up, tear them down, and build giant mansions on the cleared properties.
Why not take advantage of these little houses? It is not necessary to shoot them down. It is only necessary that they are not located on these valuable sites. Reuse them. Take them to vacant land set aside elsewhere in advance for affordable housing.
There are several reasons why this will work.
First of all, there’s been a long tradition of moving from here to there since the founding of the East End in the 1600s. It’s a thriving business. In recent years, many homes have been moved by Dawn House Movers. They move a house when it’s too close to the ocean, it has historic value, or a family is so attached to it that they want to take it with them when they move.
I know of a farming family that did this. To move them, the houses are lifted on railway sleepers atop steel platforms on wheels. A big truck transports them. There are times, especially out of season, when you can see the movers crawling them down the highway at about a mile an hour to their new locations.
It is probably cheaper to demolish a small house than to move it somewhere else. But building new cheap housing complexes in large numbers is a tough sell and will take years and years to accomplish. Yet here are all those houses, a huge inventory, still full of memories and dreams of those who lived in them, ready to go.
If you look at our community from the air you will see that we are still a rural area with huge amounts of open fields and woods available to accommodate these homes. Place them in an orderly landscape setting with new roads and sidewalks leading to them. They would become, almost overnight, new neighborhoods.
Who would pay for that? I think cities should pass a new law. If a buyer wants an existing tiny house on their newly purchased property to disappear, they must take on the responsibility of paying to move and relocate it. Given that real estate transactions these days are in the millions, if not tens or hundreds of millions, I think this would be a small, unnoticed additional cost to buyers if adopted.
Currently and for more than 20 years, buyers pay municipalities a 2.25% tax on all real estate transactions over $400,000. Over $1 billion was raised during this time this way, the money used to acquire and preserve open space and farmland.
A current proposal would add another 0.25% to this tax (it will be voted on in November) to be used for affordable housing. Vote and use the money to buy the sites to get the houses. So don’t build apartments or motel-type units. Such projects do not correspond to this community. Instead, move these tiny homes to quarter-acre lots. Name the new communities Hampton Town or Hamptonville or Down Home Hampton.
I can think of nothing more important to this community than seeing local single family homes given new use for affordable housing in a new residential setting. And I think a buyer, deep down, will applaud giving a tiny house a new use, rather than just watching a wrecking ball he or she command come in and destroy it.
Appropriately, I think, a previous owner of one of these tiny homes should have a day set aside when a buyer could visit it to see it in its new use. Name a date in a year. One or two hour visit.
I also think that when a buyer wants a giant mansion (with no historical value) to be demolished to make way for an even bigger mansion, then the teardown should proceed. Instead, have the buyer put into a fund an amount equal to the cost of moving to a smaller home if it had been there. Then use that funding to build an equally affordable home in the new location. Perhaps limit those eligible for a move to three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.
Thus, we will save our local communities, satisfy those who cannot afford to live here at current prices, and solve the need for workers for summer visitors.