Housing on Shelter Island is becoming increasingly unaffordable, leaving the middle class without options and putting the community’s future at stake.
Shelter Island is the only town on the East End without a high-density affordable housing development. Two projects are being developed with either affordable rental options or homeownership opportunities, but most details are under wraps, Town Supervisor Gerry Siller told Newsday.
The island has a full-time population of only 3,253, which triples during the summer. The inability for people to afford to live there year-round has created a de facto gated community for the rich on an island only accessible by boat.
The median listing price for a home on Shelter Island is $1.8 million, according to Realtor.com. No properties listed on the website were priced less than $395,000, and that was for a vacant lot.
Deputy Town Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams said in a June meeting her difficulty finding housing could mean she may have to quit her position. Siller has said that if he had to move to Shelter Island today, he would not be able to.
The consequences of not bringing affordable housing to the island could be dire. Local small businesses are challenging to staff, as are volunteer roles with the fire department and ambulance company, the outlet noted. Additionally, the school district could eventually be forced to close: Enrollment from pre-K through 12th grade is only 215 students.
These concerns don’t have all residents convinced that affordable housing is needed. Some residents have expressed concern that adding population could strain the water supply. Others simply believe those who can’t afford to live on Shelter Island live somewhere else.
The Hamptons has a similar problem.
One option being explored is a bill allowing a 0.5 percent real estate sales tax to help fund affordable housing projects on the East End. A similar bill was vetoed by Andrew Cuomo in 2019, but the new bill was passed by the Legislature this year and appears poised to reach Gov. Kathy Hochul.
[Newsday] — Holden Walter-Warner