Long Islanders Can’t Afford The Island

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Survey says residents want more housing options

The general consensus is that young people are desperate to leave the Island as soon as they graduate college—that they don’t feel like anything is keeping them here and the high cost of living is merely a factor in the ultimate decision to move away.

But a new survey reveals that Long Islanders do indeed feel a strong connection to the island they call home and they would make this their permanent residence, if not for a lack of truly affordable housing options. The survey, released last week by Long Island Index, explores attitudes about housing among residents of Long Island and compares them with those of other nearby suburbs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Underlying the concerns is the difficulty that Long Islanders have in meeting their monthly housing costs, with 60 percent of Long Islanders reporting difficulty, compared to 48 percent for the New Jersey suburbs and 53 percent for the New York and Connecticut suburbs.

As a result, 59 percent of island residents—an all-time high—say they are somewhat or very likely to leave in the next five years for a more affordable area, an increase of 10 percent in the last five years. That’s especially notable, since Long Islanders underscore their strong connection to Long Island. When asked “How strongly do you identify with Long Island or your county?” 58 percent of Long Islanders responded “very strongly,” compared to 23 percent of those in New Jersey and 29 percent in New York/Connecticut.

Long Islanders are apparently more passionate about their connection to the area—a 35 percent difference compared to New Jersey—yet they are likely to leave for a more affordable place.

The survey shows that the challenge of affordable housing is especially stark for young adults, with 41 percent of those ages 18 to 34 reportedly living with parents, in-laws or other relatives—an increase from 35 percent in 2015. To address this situation, the survey finds that Long Islanders want more housing options and they are specific about the options, with 68 percent of residents supporting a change in zoning laws to make it easier to install a rental apartment in a single-family home. There is majority support for this among all age groups—from 58 percent among those 65 and older to 83 percent among those 18-34.

This support for more housing options mirrors changing housing expectations of Long Islanders. The number of Long Island residents who expect to live in a single-family home in five years has dropped 9 percent since 2015 to 65 percent. The number who expect to live in an apartment, condo or townhouse in five years has increased 11 percent since 2015 to 26 percent.

New York Remains An Outbound State

“The survey results underscore the growing challenge of a lack of affordable housing,” said Dr. Leonie Huddy, Stony Brook University professor and co-author of the report and survey. “But they also reflect a desire for change.”

The president of the foundation which spearheaded the survey, the Rauch Foundation, said the onus is on elected officials to hear the pleas of Long Islanders who are looking for non-Island housing options, not because they want to, but because they have to.

“Long Islanders are clear about their housing preferences and our elected officials should take them into account,” said Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation. “Young adults in particular are struggling to find their footing here and that jeopardizes Long Island’s future. It’s time to put our future ahead of our past.”

—Information provided by The Rauch Foundation and Long Island Index

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