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Aug 24, 2010 6:49 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

'Affordable' has a new look

Aug 24, 2010 6:49 PM

Quick—a little word association. Affordable housing. What does that conjure up for you? Tract housing? Cheap construction? Cookie-cutter houses? If that’s what you think, head over to Kopka and Ganley roads off Spencer Road near Stephen Hands Path, north of the Montauk Highway. There you’ll find the neighborhood of Green Hollow Woods, an affordable housing community that puts all doubts to shame, local housing authorities and town officials say.

After 10 years of planning and legal wrangling and resistance from some neighbors who feared the town would create a slum, Green Hollow Woods is now, as of this summer, just 
about fully occupied, with the finishing touches being put 
on a few more houses.

But the owners of those that are finished—teachers, plumbers, police officers, restaurant workers and more teachers—couldn’t be happier.

“I come home every night and think I’m staying in a hotel. Everything about this house is first class, right down to the solid oak floors,” said Brian Smith, a homeowner and science teacher at East Hampton Middle School who waited on a lottery list for seven years before he could finally move into his new home over the Memorial Day weekend. “I’ve been really lucky. 
I was second on this list in the lottery. I just kept moving up 
because people couldn’t wait 
any longer and they dropped out.”

Mr. Smith took a reporter on a tour of Kopka Road last week. The street has all traditional houses—ranging from cottages to ranches and New England traditional style. Some have cedar shingles, some are painted and some have high-quality vinyl siding.

One neighbor of Mr. Smith, John Brown, sat outside on his porch, while another neighbor, Rob Smullen, strolled up the driveway. While Mr. Smith and Mr. Smullen chatted, Mr. Brown took stock of his new street, which is filled with teachers, like himself.

“It’s a small community and it’s going to provide a great future for our kids,” he said. He has one daughter already, who is a year old. “It’s very quiet and peaceful here.”

Next door, Henry Meyer and his son Hudson, 3, played with a ball and a big orange plastic bat. Mr. Meyer’s wife, Jeremy, stood by. “We moved in in the middle of February,” she said. “There were a bunch of people who moved in when we did. It’s just beautiful here, with a lot of children around.”

The 26 half-acre lots were assigned to the future residents, according to the position of applicants on the town’s affordable housing list. The individuals 
and families on the list were chosen in two housing lotteries, 
one in 2003 and another in 2006.

Most of the mortgages that the homeowners got for their 
houses were in the $180,000 to $300,000 range, according to Tom Ruhle, the town’s housing director. The individual homeowners chose their own construction company from three that the former Town Board selected to build the development. The 
construction companies chosen included Barn Board Builders, J & R Development of Long 
Island Inc., and Manzi Homes East.

The town retains ownership of the land within Green Hollow Woods, leasing it to the homeowners.

Homeowners pay the town an annual lease rate equal to what the property taxes on the lot would be if it were private property. If they choose to sell the house in the future, they can recoup the cost of the construction and that of any additions or improvements plus appreciation equal to the rate of inflation, according to the federal Consumer Price Index.

By retaining ownership of the underlying land, the town was able to keep the properties in the “affordable” market—something it was unable to do with some of its earlier affordable housing projects.

The two streets blend in with houses on the other streets nearby, said Town Councilman Pete Hammerle, who has helped shepherd the project along its way for the last several years. “The neighbors were pleasantly surprised at the way the houses turned out,” he said. “We gave the owners several models to choose from so the neighborhood wouldn’t have that cookie-cutter look.”

Clearing in Green Hollow was restricted to 50 percent of the natural vegetation—slightly more restrictive than the current town code allows on other properties. There is also a 30-foot clearing buffer along the street fronts, except for the area of the driveway.

“The builders did a good job on the houses. People love to demean affordable housing. But what we are talking about is middle-class housing. Basically, what you have is an eclectic mix and a neighborhood of middle-class people. That’s what affordable housing means,” said Mr. Ruhle.

“I don’t believe in Formica,” said Jim Sullivan, owner of Barn Board Builders based in East Hampton, who designed and built seven of the houses. “We did custom cabinets, and all marble counters, both in the kitchens and bathrooms. I gave the homeowners an opportunity to upgrade fixtures, such as solid high-quality brass faucets. We did all red oak wood floors, though some people opted for wide pine floors.”

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Hooray! This is so needed, too bad there were only 26 homes.
By Waincott Resident (42), Wainscott on Aug 26, 10 2:46 PM
"Mr. Meyer’s wife, Jeremy" Jeremy? Is that a typo?
By Rich Morey (378), Brooklyn on Aug 26, 10 3:20 PM
We need much more of the same. Congrats to those families!
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 26, 10 3:32 PM
>

Some of the highest paid year round workers. And then they can sell at a huge profit when they take their pensions to North Carolina someday. Yay.

I still remember the "affordable" home in Hampton Bays that went to a retired couple who had just moved there from New England somewhere. WTF

And the habitat for humanity home that went to a legit local woman last year, but, who has been too busy having 3 kids with 3 different men for the last 2 decades to advance beyond ...more
By smacw (240), New York on Aug 26, 10 5:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where does it say they can sell for a huge profit? Since the homes are leased from the land, the value of the home doesn't go up a whole lot.

"If they choose to sell the house in the future, they can recoup the cost of the construction and that of any additions or improvements plus appreciation equal to the rate of inflation"

By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 27, 10 9:25 AM
Why so resentful of people vital to our community?
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 27, 10 2:32 PM
When I got out of school in the mid nineties, I took my first "real" job, and started saving. Every time I save a little more, the prices went up a little more. Then the GLBA was passed, and the housing prices began to rise a little faster out here, then, 9/11, and all unholy hell broke loose. Every time I found a jewel in the rough, the bank had to politely say "no".

I'm happy for these folks who got something for around $200,000, and I wish them the best.

And, SH Town, are ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 29, 10 10:50 AM
our town govt should not be in the real estate business...
By gansetteer (125), East Hampton on Sep 1, 10 9:24 PM