Shelter Island Struggling to Provide Affordable Housing

Shelter Island and Town Supervisor Gerry Siller (iStock, Town of Shelter Island)

Housing on Shelter Island is becoming increasingly less affordable, leaving the middle class without options and putting the town’s future at stake.

Shelter Island is the only town in 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 swells to triple that 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 with a car via ferry.

The median listing price for a home on Shelter Island is $1.8 million, according to No properties listed on the website were for less than $395,000, a low-cost opportunity that included 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 he couldn’t afford to move to Shelter Island today.

The consequences of not bringing affordable housing to the island could be dire. Local small businesses are more challenging to staff, as are volunteer roles with the fire department and ambulance company, the outlet noted. Additionally, the school district could be forced to close eventually, where enrollment from pre-K through 12th grade is already only 215 students.

These concerns don’t have all residents convinced of the need for affordable housing. Some residents have expressed concern about the town’s water supply, including a former member of the community housing board. Others simply believe those who can’t afford to live on Shelter Island live somewhere else.

One option being explored is a bill allowing a 0.5 percent real estate sales tax to help fund affordable housing projects in the East End. A similar bill was vetoed by Andrew Cuomo in 2019, but the new bill appears poised to reach Gov. Kathy Hochul.

[Newsday] — Holden Walter-Warner

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