Newsday: Planning agency to seek funds for affordable housing post

Originally published: April 1, 2014 6:05 PM

The Long Island Regional Planning Council voted unanimously Tuesday to create a position for an affordable housing coordinator to advocate for such development in Nassau and Suffolk counties, with the job contingent upon getting grants to pay for it.

Council chairman John D. Cameron Jr., in an interview after the meeting, put the estimated cost at $200,000 for salary and benefits for a coordinator and additional staff support.

"This would be an independently hired person ... to educate and advocate for projects which are deemed meritorious," he said.

The position would be funded separately from the council.

Cameron said he envisions the housing coordinator "trying to meet with legislative bodies, zoning authorities, but also with community groups, trying to educate them on the need for the housing."

Council executive director Cara Longworth, noted, however, that "We can't hire right away. We still have steps to take," notably, raising money to finance the position.

Cameron said he was optimistic: "Fingers crossed."

"We've had multiple meetings over the last six months about this," he said, adding that he has received "expressions of interest from various outside funding sources."

The council's action, during its meeting at Babylon Village Hall, came as the region's lack of affordable housing, and its impact on a regionwide loss of young adults, emerged during a presentation from Alexander Roberts, executive director of Community Housing Innovations.

The agency, based in White Plains, operates homeless shelters on Long Island and in Westchester County.

Roberts talked about the findings of his report, released in February, showing a "demographic collapse" of young adults ages 25 to 34 on the Island, especially in communities with the most expensive housing.

"I believe we've lost the balance that's supposed to be in zoning," Roberts said.

The report found that while the number of young adults ages 25 to 34 increased 2.76 percent nationwide from 2000 to the Census Bureau's 2007-2011 American Community Survey, that age group declined 12.43 percent in Nassau, 12.74 percent in Suffolk and 12.83 in Westchester.

Roberts pointed to far higher declines of those young adults -- at 20 percent and above -- in expensive communities, with the highest losses occurring in Kings Point (58 percent), Westhampton (57 percent) and Oyster Bay hamlet (51 percent), according to his analysis of census data.

"I think there's really something going on here that we need to pay attention to," Roberts said.

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