By Sophia Ricco
Huntington Town Board members approved major accessory apartment code changes that will allow more homeowners to apply for accessory apartment permits. The changes, adopted at the July 16 board meeting, are aimed at creating affordable housing options for renters and income opportunities for homeowners.
It can be a struggle to find affordable housing in the Town of Huntington with newly built apartment buildings skewing toward the luxury end; one bedrooms rent for over $1,800 a month.
The code changes were co-sponsored by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Councilwoman Joan Cergol.
“These measures are good for property rights, families just starting out, and those on fixed incomes,” Lupinacci said. “It opens up the affordable apartment rental supply, as accessory apartments tend to be offered at lower prices than the apartments created as part of new construction.”
A significant change to the code permits homeowners to live in the accessory apartment while renting out the main portion of their home.
“The accessory apartment amendments are a win, win, win as they will make it possible for our older residents to age in place, allow our younger residents to attain the dream of homeownership,” Cergol said.
The housing advocacy group Huntington Township Housing Coalition worked with the board to craft the changes, emphasizing the benefits of property owners remaining in their homes with a higher income and creating larger rentable units for families.
“Older people may have had to leave the area when they retired, because of taxes,” Coalition president Roger Weaving, Jr. said. “But having an accessory apartment provides them money to make their tax bill. A young person can live in the apartment and rent out the home for more money. Then as their family gets bigger, they can rent out the apartment. It gives the homeowner a lot more flexibility, that allows us to retain young and old people.”
In an effort to make more homes eligible to accommodate accessory apartments, the code change reduced the minimum lot size requirement from 7,500 square feet to 5,000, and the lot frontage requirement from 75 linear feet to 50. This revision allows for apartments in neighborhoods with smaller acreage – typically those near transit and village areas – the opportunity to create a legal accessory apartment.
“The problem was in places like Huntington Station with 50 foot frontages, they didn’t have an option to make it legal,” Weaving said. “You can’t change your yard from 50 feet to 75 feet. When an apartment is illegal, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be safe. Legal apartments are safer, better for the neighborhood and ensures the tenants can exercise their rights.”
A public safety measure passed prevents basements or cellars from housing accessory dwelling units, unless a permit exists or is pending.
“As we assess our options to increase the availability of affordable housing, we need to consider alternatives to the options that would add to an unsustainable burden on our infrastructure and find creative ways to tap into our existing housing supply to fulfill the housing needs for those who feel they can’t afford to live on Long Island,” Lupinacci said.