New Law Would Boost Accessory Apartments

An additional 2000 lots across Southampton could qualify for an accessory apartment under proposed legislation aimed at providing more affordable housing.

With the proposed changes to the town’s housing law, property owners whose lots are at least 20,000 square feet would be able to apply for an accessory apartment provided they live in an area where the density was less than 500 people per square mile. Currently, a property owner can only have an accessory apartment if their lot is at least 30,000 square feet. This would create the potential for additional housing in Bridgehampton, Eastport, Flanders, Northampton, North Sea, Noyac, Tuckahoe, Water Mill, and Westhampton.

“Affordable housing within the township is at a critical point,” said assistant town attorney Kara Bak. “The town’s high housing costs limit availability of affordable housing. It’s creating difficulty for local employers to hire and retain employees, it’s challenging for our volunteer services to recruit members, and it is most certainly a contributing factor to the traffic on County Road 39. Although the town has benefited from increased tourism and second homeownership, the town board needs to find ways to increase affordable housing opportunities in order to sustain the local economy and community services.”

Town officials think the legislation would be the solution. The law would include a mandated affordability component. According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, monthly rent cannot exceed 110 percent of the established fair market on Long Island. For now, rents would be capped at $1664 a month for a studio apartment, $1703 for a one bedroom apartment, and $2098 for a two-bedroom unit.

When applying for an accessory apartment permit, a copy of the lease with the agreed upon rent and proof of income from the potential tenant would have to be provided to the town. A tenant’s income must meet the annual income requirements for low-moderate or middle income set by HUD. For a family of four, low-moderate annual total income cannot exceed $93,000, and middle income $151,000.

“We’re basically saying if you want to increase density, we’ll allow you do that while providing a community benefit, which is the affordability,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said.

Kevin Moran of the Long Island Builders Institute read a letter at a December 20 town board meeting supporting the town’s effort to diversify its housing stock to maintain a healthy local economy. Walter Oden said he sees affordable housing as still expensive and not easy to build. He suggested the town look into more modular housing, such as “tiny homes” that are built in a factory and shipped to the site.

“Still, affordability is key,” Oden said. “Municipal workers that can’t afford to live here is a challenge.”

The proposed law has a grandfather clause for those 300 properties currently taking advantage of the right to have an accessory apartment on a property that is three-quarters of an acre or larger. The owners of those houses can continue to charge any amount they’d like so long as the home is occupied by its owner and a tenant year-round, which is a mandatory component for any accessory apartment.

A vote on the resolution, which would take effect immediately, was tabled until the board’s January 8 meeting, pending comment from citizens advisory committees, but that meeting occurred after this issue’s deadline.

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