This testimony was presented before the Nassau County legislature on February 16, 2017 by RPA New York Director Pierina Ana Sanchez.
RPA is excited about the future of Long Island, and encourage HUD to fully fund the housing initiatives that the Nassau County needs.
Long Island has a desperate need for affordable housing, and this is fully evident throughout Nassau County. Over the past 25 years Long Island has lost a greater share of its younger residents – 16% - than anywhere else in the New York region. Even though incomes are higher than many other suburban areas, this is largely taken up by housing costs, which are $9,500/year higher a comparable area in New Jersey’s Bergen and Passaic counties. And more Long Islanders are rent burdened than even residents of New York City. Over half of Nassau and Suffolk renters pay 30% or more of their income in rent, and almost a third paying more than half their income in rent. These housing costs have a huge effect on the ability of Long Island’s younger population to start careers and families. In 2013 RPA found that two-thirds of Long Islanders in their 20s, and a quarter in their 30s, live with parents, grandparents, or other older relatives.
This is compounded by the high levels of housing segregation on the Island, which further restricts housing options for black and Hispanic families. Long Island was found to be one of the most racially segregated regions in the country in a 2015 study by ERASE Racism, and ranked 7th most segregated in the United States in a 2011 study by Brown University and Florida State.
The solution is twofold – first, we need to build the kind of housing that makes sense: multifamily, mixed-use housing close to transit and amenities. Available land for single-family development is scarce, with only 38,000 single-family units built on the Island since 2000 – compare that with 233,000 single-family homes built in the 40s and 50s. Fortunately, places for multifamily, mixed-use, mixed-income housing are more plentiful. An RPA study for the Long Island Index found 8,300 acres of potential land with ½ mile of downtown areas suitable for multifamily housing. And it’s important to note, this is the kind of housing in line with what Long Islanders expect. While only 17% currently live in multifamily housing, fully 30% expect to live in multifamily housing in 5 years.
And second, we need to make sure this housing is available for everyone. This can be accomplished by strengthening the Long Island Workforce Housing Act, making sure fair housing regulations are strongly enforced throughout the Island, and ensuring that municipalities proactively comply with HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Plan.