Riverhead Housing Proposal Sparks Uproar

Yvette Aguiar
Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar

Dozens of advocacy organizations called on the Town of Riverhead to drop a proposal that would prohibit landlords from renting residences to people who are not related to one another.

The proposed code revision that would spell out what the town recognizes as a family is billed as a health and safety measure, but critics say it would unfairly restrict the ability of low-income residents to find affordable housing.

“The proposed definition of a ‘traditional family’ likely runs afoul of long-standing court precedent and the [New York] State Human and Civil Rights statutory definitions and protections,” a coalition of 26 advocacy groups wrote in a letter to the town. “It is also our opinion that the changes would violate the federal Fair Housing Act, along with New York State and Suffolk County Human Rights law, and would prevent landlords from renting to any tenant without asking questions that violate those laws.”

Town officials did not respond to a request for comment on the letter. The results of an August 17 public hearing on the issue were not complete as of press time.

“It shall be unlawful for any owners, persons or tenants to occupy or allow the occupancy of a rental dwelling unit within the Town of Riverhead which is not in conformance with this chapter’s definition of Family or functional equivalent thereof,” the proposal states.

The proposal also says that “the group is one which in structure and function resembles a traditional family unit,” and lists qualifications, such as the presence of children enrolled in local schools, common ownership of furniture, and local employment.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, when Long Island and the nation at large stand on the precipice of a housing crisis, Riverhead officials should be devoting their resources to ensuring housing security for all of its residents, rather than creating restrictions that harm and push out those least able to find alternatives,” the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.

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