Michael Watt – Exec Dir Long Island Builders Institute
September 5, 2008 @ 12:00 am EDT
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Our speaker this week was Michael Watt, Executive Director of Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI). Michael began by talking about the numbers of young people who are leaving the region. Young men and women starting out, have a slim chance of establishing themselves here, and the situation is not resolving itself. Even the mortgage crisis that is causing housing prices to drop like stone in some parts of the country, is not having the same effect on Long Island. He attributes that fact to the cost of land. High land prices has inhibited the speculative builder, as a result our surplus of homes is not as bad as in other places. The reduction in home costs has not been enough to entice young, or new buyers.
Mr. Watt said there is a myth that says new construction would inundate the local schools with new students that could not be absorbed without creating enormous expenses. He then pointed out that the typical family demographics on Long Island is that the average family is only three people, refuting that assumption. He went on to say the rental apartments in the downtowns could be part of the answer. In some places downtowns already are building second story apartments. These apartments are largely occupied by single people.
Watt addressed the "green building" movement, and claimed that building green was more costly, but resulted in lower utility bills for the life of the home. A few months ago we had "green" architecht, Peter Caradonna speak at LIMBA, and according to him, even the initial costs were similar. So, here we have a difference of opinion. Nevertheless, LIBI has signed on to the new concept of building in an environmentally friendly way. As we get more used to building in the new style there will be more and more people who are knowledgeable in the new methods.
Building "vertical" was discussed in the Q&A session. Building one or more acre housing is wasteful and costly. Where you have multi family housing land it is easier to keep open land. Here we get into the chicken and the egg problem. You cannot build multi family housing without sewars. At the same time municipalities are reluctant to invest in them. It appears the leadership we need is sorely absent, but some of our recent political speakers do seem to be coming on board to do the things we need.