Increasing Affordable Housing

Southampton Town Hall is located at 116 Hampton Road.

Leasing accessory apartments was just made easier, while renting them got a whole lot cheaper.

Southampton Town officials voted 5-0 January 22 in favor of relaxed restrictions and monthly rent caps that could make an additional 2000 properties eligible for accessory apartments.

The board’s action is an effort to offset high South Fork real estate prices that have made it difficult for many workers to find affordable housing nearby, leaving them to live in communities farther west.

“While the town has benefited from increased tourism and second homeownership, income-eligible households are being priced out of market-rate housing,” the legislation states. “In addition, as the cost of living increases, the extra income derived from an accessory apartment is needed to keep many current residents in their homes.”

“I don’t think this will solve all of our affordable housing problems,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “But I think it’s a drop in the bucket.”

Southampton Town code previously allowed property owners with three-quarter-acre lots to obtain an accessory rental permit, but the law had no rent restrictions. The change approved Tuesday allows property owners on half-acre lots in less densely populated hamlets like Bridgehampton, Eastport, Flanders, Northampton, North Sea, Noyac, Tuckahoe, Water Mill, and Westhampton to obtain a permit, but dictates rent be kept at an “affordable” standard to serve the town’s workforce.

“More expensive areas would qualify,” Schneiderman said. “That’s where we really need it.”

Rents would be capped at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development fair market rates, which for 2019 on Long Island are $1240 for a studio apartment, $1548 for a one-bedroom unit and $1907 for a two-bedroom. Southampton Town code does not allow for accessory apartments with three bedrooms or more. The new requirements would apply only to new applications.

“I fully support this bill,” Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni said. “It’s a way for young people to stay in the area.”

The law requires tenants make less than $151,700 per year for a family of four, which is 130 percent of an area’s median income. Family members of landlords are exempt from that requirement.

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