Long Island’s nine-member New York State Senate Delegation today unveiled a new, $25 million program to make affordable housing available for more Nassau and Suffolk County residents. As developed and funded by Long Island’s State Senators and administered by the Long Island Housing Partnership ("LIHP"), the Homeownership and Economic Stabilization for Long Island Program ("HELP") provides downpayment assistance and rehabilitation grants to eligible homebuyers.
At today’s announcement, Long Island’s State Senators—Dean G. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Owen H. Johnson (R- Babylon), Caesar Trunzo (R- Brentwood), Kenneth LaValle (R- Port Jefferson), Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), Senator Carl Marcellino (R - Syosset), Michael A.L. Balboni (R-East Williston), Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) and John J. Flanagan (R- East Northport)—were joined by LIHP President and CEO Peter Elkowitz and representatives from the region’s business and labor communities.
"Too many of our young people have been priced out of Long Island’s housing market," said Senator Skelos. "This has made it difficult for employers to attract the best and brightest to Long Island and hurt parents whose children have relocated to other parts of the country where housing is more affordable. HELP is a first-of-its-kind, public-private partnership that provides real assistance to homebuyers, encourages reinvestment in our neighborhoods and helps more working families."
Peter Elkowitz, President and CEO of the Long Island Housing Partnership, said, "The Long Island Housing Partnership is delighted that this pilot program will help those families who want to live and work on Long Island, achieve that goal. Employers will be able to retain and recruit the high caliber workforce that Long Island needs to maintain a strong economy into the future."
Beginning January 1, 2007, the LIHP will begin administering HELP. The Program will offer three key forms of assistance:
State Employer Downpayment Assistance Matching Grant
To encourage the creation of downpayment assistance programs by Long Island employers, HELP provides a 3-to-1 state match for these funds. To be eligible for state matching funds, employers with fewer than 50 employees must provide a minimum contribution of $3,000, with the minimum for larger businesses rising to $5,000. The total downpayment assistance package cannot exceed $40,000 ($30,000 state, $10,000 employer) and the appraised value of the purchased home cannot exceed Long Island’s median home price (currently $450,000).
State Housing Rehabilitation Grants
To encourage community reinvestment and further lower upfront purchase costs, HELP provides homebuyers with up to $20,000 in additional funding for necessary repairs and the rehabilitation of existing homes.
Local Workforce Housing Incentive
To encourage smart-growth policies in local government, HELP provides downpayment assistance in those municipalities that create "workforce" housing and revitalize downtown areas. The Long Island Index’s recent "Room for Growth" poll found that 60% of Long Islanders surveyed would be interested in living within easy walking distance of the downtown area of their town or village. Under HELP’s Smart Growth Development for Workforce Housing incentive, any developer who works with a municipality to provide workforce housing in downtown areas and hamlet centers in accordance with "Smart Growth" principles can obtain a project set aside of up to $25,000 per home to be contributed towards the homebuyer’s downpayment.
"Smart Growth" development may include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following components: mixed-use development to increase economic activity in downtown areas or hamlet centers through the integration of commercial and residential land use; location near transportation hubs to utilize existing infrastructure and create "walkable" neighborhoods; compact building design as an alternative to conventional, sprawling development; and inclusionary zoning to create a range of housing opportunities.
Most existing affordable housing programs limit participation to individuals and families with incomes 80%, or less, of the median. Unfortunately, Long Island’s median home price is now more than five times its median income. As a result, homeownership has become unaffordable for families at, or above, the region’s median income. To address this problem, individuals and families earning up to 130% of Long Island’s median income qualify for HELP. This includes singles earning up to $82,800 and families of four with annual incomes of $118,300.
Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz said, "The HELP program is sorely needed and I applaud our Senators' initiative. At Hofstra University we want to continue to attract the very best faculty to educate our students, and we want our graduating students to be able to live and work on Long Island if they so choose. We need programs like HELP to help make affordable housing a reality."
Ken Morrelly, President of LIFT, said, "The HELP initiative is a practicable near term solution to assist younghome buyers in purchasing a home. This initiative, which significantly leverages numerous company supported programs, makes it particularly focused on regionally retaining skilled workers, future scientist and engineers, a critical need in keeping the Island vibrant. Industry thanks Senator Skelos and the regional delegation for their insightful efforts tocreate such a program."
Bob Klein, Vice President of Engineering, Logistics and Technology, Northrop Grumman Corporation, said, "The HELP program will significantly improve our ability to both source and retain the talent needed for our high technology programs. We greatly appreciate the leadership and vision of Long Island's State Senators to implement this program in collaboration with industry."
Bill Wahlig, General Manager, EDO Corporation, said, "EDO Corporation has made a substantial long-term commitment and significant investments on Long Island. With this investment comes the need to retain a talent-ready workforce to meet the challenges for today and the future. This program will undoubtedly assist in meeting those challenges. EDO looks forward to reviewing the details of the HELP Program and seeing how it best fits our workforce needs.
Robert A. Wieboldt, Executive Vice President – Long Island Builders Institute said, "The HELP program touches all of the important workforce housing bases, purchasing, rehabbing and redevelopment, and is a real a home run by our Long Island leaders in Albany. This funding will make a genuine difference and help Long Island remain economically competitive."
In the past, the Long Island Senate Delegation created the Affordable Homeownership Program to encourage the development of affordable housing, funded low-interest mortgages through the State of New York Mortgage Agency ("SONYMA") and successfully lobbied the federal government to raise both the income and purchase price limits for SONYMA mortgages in Nassau and Suffolk counties to the federal maximum (90% of the regional median).