Suffolk Home Auction Residency Rule to Stay
Hauppauge, NY – A program seeking to turn county-owned properties into new homes for returning veterans was expanded at yesterday’s legislative meeting to include unsold auction properties. IR 1810-11, introduced by Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), amends the county’s 72-h transfer program to include “improved” parcels. The homes can now be transferred to local municipalities, and Brookhaven Town’s Supervisor Mark Lesko will be working with the Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI) to sell the homes to veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
A restriction on “improved” homes was preventing the county from putting the properties back on the tax rolls after prior owners failed to pay taxes. Prior to today’s change the only avenue to sell these parcels was at the county auction. However, the homes were no longer being sold at the auction because of Legislator Browning’s 2008 law that established a 10-year residency restriction as a deterrent to speculation. Earlier this year Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy sought to remove the residency requirement in an effort to sell the properties and receive the much needed revenue for the county. Opening the door to speculators again was not something Legislator Browning could support.
“The residency restriction I put in place has accomplished the goal of stopping speculators from taking advantage of distressed communities,” stated Legislator Browning. “The challenge became finding a way to get these homes back on the tax rolls without destabilizing neighborhoods.”
The answer came by way of the 72-h program. This is a statute that permits the county to transfer properties to local towns. The county has been doing it for years to create affordable housing, but until now parcels that were “improved”, or considered habitable, could not be transferred. The biggest reason for this policy was because the county normally transfers parcels to towns for one dollar, and “improved” parcels are worth much more than vacant land. The revenue was too much to forgo for the county.
“The county invests a lot of money in maintaining these properties until they can be sold,” stated Legislator Browning. “We didn’t transfer habitable homes because the revenue at the auction was too great to ignore. However, once we prevented speculators from buying them the demand disappeared. Opening the door to speculators again would be a step back, so I said why not transfer these if we can get reimbursed for our investment?”
Legislator Browning reached out to LIBI, who has already been rehabbing homes for veterans, and Brookhaven Town, which encompasses her entire district. Supervisor Mark Lesko committed to work with LIBI, and the County in turn will be reimbursed for its investment. Not only will Suffolk County now be able to get the revenue it seeks for these “improved” parcels, but the residency restriction will remain in place as a protection against speculators at the county auction.
“The Long Island Builders Institute strongly supports the availability of additional options for the development of affordable housing through the passage of this legislation,” says Mitchell H. Pally, CEO of LIBI. “We applaud Legislator Browning and the members of the County Legislature for providing new opportunities for not for profits to accept additional parcels with structures which can be renovated for such use. We look forward to working with the county and the towns to make such new parcels into renovated homes which can be made available to our returning veterans.”
“This is a win-win for Suffolk County and its veterans,” concluded Legislator Browning. “Not only will the county realize the revenue for these homes, but the residency restriction will remain and our communities will open their doors to returning veterans at affordable prices.”