- I had the pleasure recently to sit down for a chat with NY State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle
to discuss a wide spectrum of topics.
Senator, please share with our readers your thoughts on the current housing issues that political leaders must address.
: One of the primary elements of the housing crisis is that too many of our young educated people are not able to buy or rent on Long Island. They're forced to move away, not by choice, but because of economic necessity. We have to balance the need for preservation and environmental considerations with the need for affordable housing. Over development affects our ground water as well as our sanitary conditions. There is also a need for work-force housing. We need skilled people to serve our communities - school teachers, firefighters, healthcare professionals, emergency medical personnel, laborers and contractors. We don't have enough affordable housing to accommodate these people. That's the reason why we have to import these workers from communities where housing is less expensive.
Could you please identify for us, Senator, some existing programs that are designed to make housing more affordable?
: We in the State Legislature have renewed legislation that provides first-time home buyers with tax breaks over a five-year period. They receive a 50 percent decrease in their property taxes in the first year, 40 percent the second year and so on until they become fully tax-paying. The municipalities, hamlets, and school districts must "buy in" to the program. It's not forced upon them. A second approach has been that developers who wish to build must set aside a certain number of affordable units or "buy out" by paying sums of money to the town or municipality. Another step was taken in 2008 by the Long Island Senate Delegation. We provided the Long Island Housing Partnership with a $25 million grant for first-time homebuyers which can be used towards a down payment on the purchase of a home. We have invited employers who want to provide assistance to their employees to participate in the Program. Hofstra University is a prime example of this participation.
Senator, what about using funds to fix up existing housing stock? Do you support that?
: Yes; very much so. It's another arrow in the quiver. That's a great use of the limited funds available. It would not only benefit the homeowners, many of whom are senior citizens whose homes are in need of repair, it could also provide work for local contractors. I am also a great advocate of the concept of cluster zoning. It's an opportunity to provide greater density, making the units more affordable to more people, while at the same time, attracting the interest of the private developer.
Would you be in favor, Senator, of the use of government funds to purchase foreclosed properties and re-sell them as affordable units to those who qualified?
: No, that is something I would not be in favor of. Years ago, I saw a similar approach to revitalization of a community in Port Jefferson where I live. It turned out that a private developer saw an investment opportunity and accomplished the goal much more efficiently and less costly than the government would have. I'm a great believer in free-market investment as a solution to our problems rather than the government. After all, it was the government that caused the current housing crisis by putting people into houses that they couldn't afford. I would also like to mention that I believe that we can have a "smart growth approach" along major highways. I would encourage the development of housing over commercial units. It's a successful practice that has been around for hundreds of years.
What is it that you think distinguishes the East End of Long Island from other areas on the island Senator?
: We must continue to preserve the rural character of the East End. It's the back bone of its economy. People come here because of it; either for first and second homes, vacations or as tourists. The wine industry is a prime example, as well as our farm stands and nurseries. Not long ago, if you went into downtown Riverhead in the evening, you could throw a bowling ball down the middle of Main Street without hitting anybody. Now, I'm happy to say, that's no longer the case. Just look at the restaurants that have popped up. The place is alive with people.
Thank you Senator LaValle for sharing your thoughts with us.
: John will be teaching a 22.5 hours Real Estate Continuing Education classes at Long Island University in Riverhead on March 12, March 14, and March 16. For information and registration contact Rosemary Malone at 631-287-8334 or by email at email@example.com.
: John will be teaching a 22.5 hours Real Estate Continuing Education classes at Long Island University in Riverhead on April 16, April 18, and April 20. For information and registration contact Rosemary Malone at 631-287-8334 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John is a St. John's University graduate, licensed Real Estate broker, lecturer, teaches real estate license classes at LIU and NYU, and acts as a consultant to the real estate industry. www.johnaviteritti.com