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Workforce Housing Moves To Sagaponack

Originally Posted: July 01, 2009

Andrea Aurichio

Members of the Business Alliance put the shovel in the ground as they begin their first work force housing project in Sagaponack. Photos by Andrea Aurichio

Sagaponack - Does the thought of buying a three bedroom, two bath home on a 1.25 acre wooded lot in Sagaponack for $300,000 sound like a good deal to you?

Builder Tony Panza praised the joint effort to create workforce housing in Southampton.

The house is in move in condition, or it will be when it is completed before the end of the year. This would sound too good to be true, even if the house is north of the highway, but thanks to the hard work and perseverance of the Southampton Town Business Alliance (SBA) and the Long Island Housing Partnership, two new home owners will be moving into workforce housing on Merchant's Path before the end of the year. The 1,700 square-foot homes will be built with the latest trends in "green' construction in mind. Each single story ranch-style home will feature an attached 500 square-foot one bedroom rental apartment, or "mortgage payer," to offset living expenses. The rental unit reduces the homeowner's living space to 1,200 square feet but provides income while it creates more housing. The apartments are expected to rent for $800 a month. The houses will have full basements, but no garage.

"We are trying to keep building costs down, that's why the houses are small," Anthony "Tony" Panza, a member of SBA involved with the project,said. The houses will be built by Manzi Homes of Rocky Point - the successful bidder awarded the contract by the Alliance. The Long Island Housing Partnership, led by its Executive Vice President Diana Weir, will begin an aggressive sales and marketing campaign to find suitable buyers for the two homes immediately. Manzi expects to start work by the middle of July at the latest. The truly lucky homeowners will be selected by a lottery system.

Diana Weir, and Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst were all smiles as they looked forward to the project.

"Anyone who is interested in one of the homes should contact us," Weir said. The Partnership will send out applications that must be completed and returned before the public lottery is held. "We will set a time limit with a definite closing date for applications."

When the lottery is held, applicants names will be pulled out of a hopper and assigned a place on the list of candidates based on the order in which names are selected. "If we get 60 applicants, the numbers will range from 1 to 60," Weir explained. Then the real work of qualifying the applicants begins. If one of the participants on the list is not able to get a mortgage, or is unable to move forward for a variety of reasons, the Partnership and the SBA would move on to the next name on the list. "There will be no preferential treatment," Weir said.

Applicants must live or work in Southampton Town in order to be eligible to enter the lottery. Prospective homeowners must also meet income guidelines set annually by the federal government to be eligible. According to the guidelines in effect for 2009, a single applicant with an income of up to $85,600 is eligible. A couple may earn up to $97,800, while a family of three may have a household income of up to $110,000. This number increases to $122,000 for a family of four.

"We worked hard to make this happen," Ann LaWall, executive director of the Alliance said this week as she lifted a shovel full of dirt in a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony at Sagaponack Woods. The Woods is the SBA's first workforce housing project.

Ann LaWall and Rich Warren join in the groundbreaking. Construction is set to begin in a week.

The SBA secured the 2.5 acre wooded lot previously owned by the Town last year for the project. The members working on the project consisted of a group of lawyers, architects, surveyors, builders and other local business owners, all of whom were acutely aware of the need for affordable housing in the region. The Alliance secured the land before putting the project out to bid and contracting with a builder, all within a year and a half.

"It was time to make things happen," La Wall said as she thanked the group of town officials, Alliance members and representatives of the Long Island Housing Partnership at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Members of the SBA volunteered their services to move the project forward. Southampton-based attorney John Bennett negotiated contracts and provided legal representation pro-bono, while Squires Holden Weisenbacher did the surveying. The Town waived its fees. Panza, a veteran builder who heads his own firm known as Turtle Pond Builders, contributed his expertise. Southampton Town Building Inspector Michael Benincasa stood on the site and listened along with Town Planner Jefferson Murphree. "We saved about $10,000" LaWall said, "thanks to our members."

Panza followed LaWall to the podium to express his gratitude to everyone who made the project possible. "We have other things in the works," Danza said, noting that the SBA plans to continue to acquire land and embark on small projects. "If we put up four workforce housing units a year I'll be happy. It will be four more units than we have now."

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