In years past, it was the Town of East Hampton that led the way among local governments in providing affordable, or so-called work-force, housing for its residents. Now East Hampton Village is finding a way to inch into this role. The first step, though it appears minor, could actually be significant over time and make a meaningful addition to the stock of reasonably priced rental apartments in the village.
On Jan. 18, the village board approved a change to the zoning code that will eliminate an onerous fee that otherwise has been sought from those who would develop or convert buildings to apartments in the centralized business districts. Applicants were asked to pay the village $10,000 for every parking space deemed necessary that they couldn’t provide. The cost was an obvious disincentive for property owners to create apartments; although second-floor residential rentals were permitted, few were built. The revision allows the fee to be waived on a case-by-case basis, giving the zoning board of appeals the responsibility.
One of the possible, if unspoken, upsides of the change is that it could help steer new affordable housing toward the central commercial centers, where essential services, food, entertainment, and public transportation are available. By contrast, most of the Town of East Hampton’s affordable residential projects have been dispersed, adding to the number of cars on the roads rather than diminishing it.
The irony is that East Hampton Village erred long ago by allowing the conversion of second-story apartments to offices, retail spaces, and the like. This measure would reverse this mistake, if one small project at a time.