Our country’s first suburb was founded here in Long Island, at a time when purchasing and owning a home on one salary was a reality, and it created a hopeful notion for many families that was called the “American Dream.” Fast-forward to today, where far too many Long Islanders, most of whom are young, working-class people, this dream of homeownership is just that – a dream.
Owning a home is seen by many as the foundation of economic stability and the means to grow a family, career, and happy life. But home prices, property taxes, and rents have skyrocketed. Wages have stagnated, and the means to afford a mortgage are becoming increasingly complex. Sadly, it appears that Suffolk County’s quickest growing export is our young people who are leaving Long Island in droves because it is too expensive to live here. We are already beginning to see the disastrous effects of career politicians who continue o “kick the can down the road” on this issue. The Labor shortages we see now, particularly in the service sectors of our economy, and the difficulty of Volunteer Fire Departments have to find recruits did not just sneak up on us overnight. They are clear indicators of the social and economic neglect of those elected to represent us. Our communities are in peril, and the situation is worsening. Our future and our children’s future depend on us taking steps now to address the problem.
I favor assisting first-time homebuyers with their home purchase by allowing those with steady, full-time jobs access to mortgages with low down payments and low-interest rates. We must also seek ways to expand low-income housing developments so more people can save to own their own homes, and stricter enforcement of federal laws regarding predatory lending and mortgage practices is also required.
But these efforts are not enough. We need to incentivize the private sector to assist in building housing that will be affordable and safe. A partnership between the public and private sectors is also required. Land speculators and housing developers must somehow see the building of affordable housing as an equally profitable venture as a hotel, strip mall, or development of McMansions
If we hope to grow the economy and check the exorbitant cost of living on Long Island, we must ensure everyone has access to an affordable and safe home.