| For many people the term affordable housing has a negative connotation. Images of substandard housing and residents that are less than desirable have often been cited when people speak out about ‘affordable housing'. The term workforce housing has gained prominence in the past few years, for this term brings to mind a more positive image of young men and women entering the job force and seeking out their first homestead.
The main drive is for our young men and women just starting out, and our senior citizens who want to remain in their hometown but don't want to maintain the same size housing as when they were raising a family, housing units that fit their lifestyle and budget. This can be accomplished with the cooperation of developers and town and county departments.
Workforce/affordable housing aims to keep our families together while providing adequate living quarters for people at various stages of life. This means starter apartments for young adults starting out, and smaller housing units for young couples and the elderly. Currently most development is for large single-family homes with sale prices well over $700,000. Not many people starting out can afford this cost. What is needed is a vision for a mixed-use community, where industry and housing can comfortably coexist. In Suffolk County, there are proposed developments in Yaphank and on the grounds of Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center. Smaller apartments over storefronts, apartment complexes geared toward generational living and smaller houses can all be built within a range that can be afforded by those just starting out.
Secondly, while the initial cost of housing is a concern, we must not neglect the impact of property taxes have on the ability for many individuals to own, and keep, their home. The ever-increasing burden of taxes must be dealt with in a fair and equitable way. Last year I sponsored legislation that investigated different methods of funding our schools. A different committee looked at ways of saving money on the expense side of school districts. The ongoing concern over property tax and how it affects home ownership is a large aspect of workforce housing.
In terms of Smithtown and Kings Park, workforce housing must be addressed so that our young men and women can have starter housing, and our seniors can have housing that keeps them in their hometown. With little open space remaining in the town, our options are limited as to building a smart-growth centered community. Once New York State decides the ultimate resolution of the vacant KPPC campus, and if this is to include development, I would certainly ask the developers to implement workforce housing and smart growth principals into their vision.