“In this election, make sure you ask your candidates about housing”
It is not a surprise that there is a severe lack of housing on Long Island. It has been affecting the cost of housing for years — both sales and rentals — and it has now become a crisis, especially for those who cannot find a place they can afford. Call it lack of inventory, call it inflation, call it greed. Overall, 35% of Long Island households are overburdened by housing costs, and that number climbs to 62% of renters.
Long Island officials have not done enough to increase housing, let alone low-and-middle income housing. Proposals to address the issue with solutions that are fiscally and environmentally responsible are consistently shut down with zoning regulations, minutiae of requirements, and strings of hearings. Not to mention the officials who fall prey to the NIMBY wails against any kind of housing creation.
Advocating for safe, accessible and affordable housing is an important part of our mission at Housing Help Inc. We receive calls every day from desperate people of all walks of life. Many of them never expected to find themselves unable to afford where they live and then unable to find a place to go. This affects everyone — seniors, veterans, single parents, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, young professionals, essential workers. Communities cannot subsist without essential workers. Young professionals are leaving Long Island with our school tax dollars in their brains, taking with them our dreams of future local leaders. In fact, the median age in Suffolk County increased by 10% between 2011 and 2021.
With the 2023 election a few days away, many Long Islanders have been attending dozens of “Meet the Candidates” events across the Island. Whether it is the long list of issues to be discussed or the number of candidates invited, discussions about the housing crisis have been inconsistent. And while a small number of good actionable ideas have been mentioned, Long Island voters have the right to know more.
If you feel access to housing is as important as we do, contact your candidates. Nothing should be as important to them as speaking with a potential voter about the issues that concern them. If time no longer permits that, check their websites. Among the questions they need to answer are:
What approach do you propose to address younger residents fleeing from our high cost of living and reduce our brain drain?
As elected officials across the U.S. recognize that affordable housing is a nonpartisan issue, they are making decisions to rezone and allow housing. How will you approach and support much-needed affordable housing in the county?
Candidates running for elected office often pledge to create affordable housing for local workers and residents. Why don’t they follow through on that and what would you do differently?
Do you support zoning reform that will both protect local residents from being pushed out of the area and protect our environment by allowing innovative examples of environmentally friendly habitats like accessory dwelling units, tiny homes, or recycled container dwellings?
Local elected officials have the power to make changes and open the road to create more housing. Exercise your right to learn more about their stands on the housing issue and vote. Then keep them accountable.
This essay appeared in Newsday