Senator Flanagan Announces Home Ownership Initiative

John J. Flanagan

September 21, 2006

Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) announced that he has worked with the eight other members of the Long Island Senate Delegation to create a new $25 million program to help Long Island's future home owners. Developed and funded jointly by the Long Island Senators, the Homeownership and Economic Stabilization for Long Island Program (HELP) provides down payment assistance and rehabilitation grants to eligible home buyers.

The program is designed specifically for Nassau and Suffolk County residents. Taking into account the high cost of buying a home on Long Island, the program created by Senator Flanagan and his colleagues is designed specifically for the region's cost factor.

"Buying a home on Long Island must be a reachable goal for all if we are to grow as a region and this program will deliver realistic help to our younger home buyers. Designed specifically for Long Islanders, this program will provide assistance that will help our communities now," stated Senator Flanagan. "The parents of our community live here to provide their children with a good start and they should be able to watch their children build their own lives. Making housing affordable for our educated workforce is the key to our future and to providing the Long Island we all want."

Most existing affordable housing programs limit participation to individuals and families with incomes 80%, or less, of the median. But with Long Island’s median home price now more than five times its median income, home ownership 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.

This important program will be administered by the Long Island Housing Partnership (LIHP)and was backed by representatives from the region’s business and labor communities at a recent announcement.

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."

The HELP program will offer three key forms of assistance:

State Employer Downpayment Assistance Matching Grant-To encourage Long Island employers to create down payment assistance programs, HELP will provide a 3-to-1 match in funding for employers who create a recognized program. This down payment assistance will cap at a combined $40,000 in funding, with $30,000 from the state and $10,000 from the employer. In addition, the appraised value of the purchased home cannot exceed Long Island’s median home price, which is currently at $450,000, and homes containing rental units are not eligible.

Under this program, eligible housing would include new or pre-existing single-family residences located within Long Island, to be occupied as a principal residence, including Condominiums, Co-operatives or Manufactured homes.

To be eligible for state matching funds, employers with fewer than 50 employees must provide a minimum contribution of $3,000 per employee and the minimum for businesses with 50 employees or more is $5,000 per employee.

State Housing Rehabilitation Grants - To encourage community reinvestment and further reduce upfront purchase costs, HELP will also provide home buyers 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 down payment assistance in those municipalities that create "workforce" housing and revitalize downtown areas.

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 home buyer’s down payment.

This development can include mixed-use development to increase economic activity in downtown areas or hamlet centers; locations 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.

The sale price of each workforce unit cannot exceed three times the median income on Long Island for a family of four, which currently amounts to $273,000.

Robert A. Wieboldt, Executive Vice President of the Long Island Builders Institutesaid, "The HELP program touches all of the important workforce housing bases, purchasing, rehabbing and redevelopment, and is a real 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).

"This program puts the collective strength of the Long Island Senate Delegation to work in a combined effort to help Long Islanders and is designed for the people who live here. That fact will enable many of our young people to remain where they grew up and that is the program's main goal," stated Senator Flanagan. "As a public-private partnership, this program will benefit businesses and individuals alike and is a big step in the right direction. The key to the success of our region is expanding the interaction of government and business to keep our economy strong and retain our young workforce."

This program commences at the beginning of 2007.