The New York Daily News today published an op-ed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Tracey Edwards, the Long Island regional director of the NAACP, regarding the contentious Matinecock Court Affordable Housing development and expanding access to fair and affordable housing across Long Island.
The text of the op-ed is available below and can be viewed online here.
The year was 1978. We were both kids growing up as the Matinecock Court Affordable Housing development was first proposed. More than 40 years later, we are finally moving forward with a development that is desperately needed for a region of nearly three million people facing an affordable housing crisis.
To understand the delay, we must take a hard look at its contentious history, the obstacles that stood in its way, and what we can do to make sure future developments do not face the same fate.
When Matinecock Court was first put forward in the Town of Huntington, it immediately faced opposition. In those days, and, sadly, still today, some believed that affordable housing was only for minority families and belonged in one area of town.
In 1988, this fight went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled that the Town of Huntington violated the Fair Housing Act by restricting multifamily housing to a mostly minority urban renewal area in Huntington Station. But after that court ruling, it still took us an additional 30 years to get to this point, and it has been a battle every step of the way.
This fight was and has been about deep-rooted issues of fairness, opportunity and justice. And a recent Newsday investigation shined a light on a dark corner of the real estate industry that has prevented too many people of color from receiving basic access to fair housing.
It is unfathomable to think this could happen in this day in age, but these significant issues of fair housing and housing discrimination are not behind us. Large roadblocks remain. As a region, we are grappling with how to make Long Island more inclusive and it is time to seize the moment to ensure equal opportunity for all.
At the county level and on the community organizing front, we were proud to do our part in helping to move this development forward. Last month, alongside advocates who have been working on this development since the beginning, Suffolk County signed legislation committing $2.5 million in funding for infrastructure improvements and sewer infrastructure for the development.
The county funding was the final piece of the puzzle, even as a handful of opponents of fair housing were still fighting to block it until the very last minute. We are hopeful that this marks a turning point for the future of housing on Long Island and sends the message that we will continue to work toward equality, even under the most adverse conditions.
While there will always be some that object, now more than ever, Long Island needs quality affordable housing. Lots more of it, spread all throughout both Nassau and Suffolk.
We are seeing our bright, talented, young workforce of all races flee our region as well as young families. The very workforce we need to grow our economy is planting roots elsewhere solely because they cannot afford to live here. And while we work to create the environment for young people to thrive by revitalizing downtowns and expanding alternative transportation options, the lack of affordable housing remains at the core of the millennial flight.
In Suffolk County, since 2012, we have created nearly 900 affordable units and over 600 units are in different phases of construction. In the past three years, the county has awarded over $13 million in funds for affordable housing development, and since 2012 has helped create over four times the number of affordable units, when compared to the previous eight years.
But we need to do much more to meet the demand, and this development is a step in the right direction.
Matinecock Court is about the future of Long Island. It expresses what side of history we want to be on. Although it was not easy to get to this point, we must continue to embrace forward-looking change. Everyone deserves access to fair housing in every corner of Suffolk County and we must all do our part. Our young people and our region can no longer afford to wait.
Bellone is Suffolk County executive. Edwards is Long Island regional director of the NAACP.