St. Joseph's College joins quest for affordable housing on L.I.

There’s a new player in the field of groups chipping away at a problem that’s plagued Long Island since the 1970s: the lack of opportunities for its young people — especially when it comes to finding a decent place to live.

On Monday in Patchogue, St. Joseph’s College administrators announced the formation of the college’s Institute for Attainable Homes. The institute will tap into St. Joseph’s resources to help politicians, business leaders and housing groups establish safe and affordable homes on Long Island.

This way, college graduates and other young people might not be so quick to move away. The institute would also work to reverse the trend of retirees, families and businesses leaving Nassau and Suffolk counties as well.

“We want to advocate for policy,” said Jo Anne Durovich, the institute’s director. “Being an advocate means making sure policy is actually useful and what people need. We also want to do the education piece, whether that means educating communities about what’s available to them, or even educating developers about what communities need.

“Because education needs to be a two-way street and right now it’s not.

The institute would also serve as an information hub for accurate and timely information about housing on Long Island, she explained.

“If you asked the question, How much rental housing is available on Long Island? You can’t currently get that answer without going to each individual town for an answer, and even then, the towns don’t necessarily know,” Durovich said. “We should know that information.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said St. Joseph’s involvement in helping solve the county’s affordable housing challenges is key for pushing government policy, because it’s a trusted institution of higher learning.

“People will have faith in their information; and that’s important,” Bellone said.

Bellone was interviewed just minutes before he gave a presentation to St. Joseph’s students upstairs at the school.

That presentation focused on what Bellone’s calling the Long Island Innovation Zone, or I-Zone.

It involves alternative transportation options running up and down Nichols Road, and connecting the Ronkonkoma Hub project, downtown Patchogue, Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Lab, among other features.

The idea is to make Long Island a more attractive place to live and work, he told the crowd.

“If you’re a region that can’t attract and retain young people,” Bellone said. “Then you’re a region in decline.”

As for the institute, it will operate through the college’s Center for Community Solutions, which is headed by former congressman Tim Bishop, who joined the college last year as a distinguished professor of civic engagement and public service.

“What we want is to position ourselves as a force within the community, for a dialogue of information for positive solutions, and to bring to bear the energy and expertise of our faculty … and our students,” Bishop said. “We want to be a part of the solution. This [institute] is our first sort of major venture in this area.”

Photo: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at St. Joseph’s College Monday. (Credit: Michael White)