Southampton Town Housing Authority executive director Curtis Highsmith announced the construction of five new affordable homes in Riverside at Monday night's FRNCA meeting. Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

Construction will soon begin on five new — and highly anticipated — single-family affordable homes in Riverside, Southampton Town Housing Authority executive director Curtis Highsmith announced Monday night at the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association monthly meeting.

“This project is very important for our community and we are glad that now we will have an opportunity to have access to affordable houses here,” FRNCA board member Paola Zuniga said. “Our community is changing for the better, not only in how it looks, but also how it’s perceived and this is part of that.”

The one-story, ranch-style home s— two will be built on Old Quogue road and three on Vail Avenue — will be about 1,200 square feet, have three bedrooms and two bathrooms and will be energy-efficient. Highsmith said that the houses will have different front façade designs based on simple aesthetics like reverse gables and dormers, so each house is unique.

Additionally, in order to meet the housing authority’s construction attributes — a set of guidelines that exceed current construction standards — the homes will also be American with Disabilities Act compliant, meaning they will have a front entryway built at grade level, wider doorways, sliders and at least one bathroom with a walk-in shower that can be accessed with a wheelchair.

“The houses will be affordable on paper, but design-wise, they will be beautiful and built with superior materials,” Highsmith said. “This is a community that deserves the best.”

The five homes—which will be publicly lotteried to elegible first-time home buyers once the construction is finalized — will be built on quarter-acre lots allocated to the housing authority under the 72-H exchange program.

Under this program, lots that are foreclosed by the county for failure to pay taxes are either sold at auction or allocated to municipalities for affordable housing purposes, said Highsmith. These particular lots were allocated to the Town of Southampton, which in turn allocated them to the housing authority, bringing the total number of 72-H exchanges from the agency on behalf of the town to 14.

Construction costs are estimated to be around $250,000 per house, said Highsmith. That cost figure was possible thanks to the developers chosen for the project, Manzi Homes East., who have already worked with the housing authority in past affordable housing projects, Highsmith said..

“We had a rigorous bidding process both for modular and stick-built contractors,” he said. “In the end we chose a stick-built construction with a developer that scored the highest in our interview and questionnaire and that was able to fund and finance the project, which is a huge cost savings for us.”

Another key element is the time contingencies that exist on these lots, said Highsmith, which have to be built within a year from the time building permits are approved. The project is set to start during the next few weeks, he said.

“Construction of the homes will happen in a domino effect, we will start with one lot, and then another one, and then another one. We are expecting all homes to be built around the fall of next year,” Highsmith said.

Once built, Highsmith said that although each house will probably be appraised for over $300,000, the purchasing price will stay in the $250,000 price range so the house continues to be affordable and under market value.

“Our priority is that these homes stay affordable and to help a family fulfill the American dream,” he said.

In order to enter the lottery, applicants must be first-time home buyers and have an annual income below 80 percent of the Housing and Urban Development’s Area Median income, which also considers household size.

Source: Town of Southampton

Lottery dates and other information will be available by Christmas, Highsmith said. The lottery will take place at the Crohan Community Center in Flanders.

Applicants chosen in the lottery will be responsible for securing their own mortgage financing. Once they are qualified, Highsmith said the housing authority is looking to guide buyers in securing down payments through grants or other county or state programs for first-time home buyers.

He said that they would also look to see if there are any private funds available for down payments “that could offset the cost of the house, so it doesn’t have to come out of a purchaser’s pocket.”

Although applications are not yet available, Highsmith encouraged prospective buyers to sign up for the housing authority’s waiting list by emailing them at [email protected], as well as registering for the Town of Southampton Department of Housing and Community Development’s registry.

It is also important to note, said Highsmith, that buyers will have to sign a a “buyers’ benefit program.” This is a special agreement where purchasers agree to comply with a series of contingencies and oversight from the housing authority. These include having the house as a primary residence, no subletting, no luxury improvements — like putting a pool in the backyard — maintaining the property and not having an excess of cars, among others.

“We are concerned about these homes not being a blight on the community, we want good neighbors and to respect others and not doing anything that infringes others’ way of living,” Highsmith said. “We want to keep the confidence and support of this community and see it flourish even more.”

The idea behind the restrictions, said Highsmith, is that the houses remain affordable “in perpetuity,” so even if someone new buys one of the properties in the future, that someone will be chosen from the list of candidates the housing authority keeps — and go through the same process.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 years from now, we make sure the homes remain affordable, that’s our goal,” he said. “ These will be truly positive assets in this community.”

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María del Mar is a contributor to RiverheadLOCAL and the editor and founder of Tu Prensa Local, a Spanish-language local news outlet on Long Island. Maria has won several awards for her work, including a first place best column award from the New York Press Association. Email Maria