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Affordable Housing Stimulus

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 17:41

In an effort to provide more affordable housing for year-round residents, the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday introduced a proposal to change minimum lot area requirements for detached affordable accessory structures. 

At the board’s work session at the Montauk Firehouse, Councilman David Lys said that by decreasing the minimum lot on which an affordable accessory apartment within a detached structure is allowed, from 40,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet, an additional 1,457 parcels would become eligible for such a structure.

No other change would be made to the town code, he said. The restriction of a maximum of 20 affordable apartments per school district and 100 townwide would not change. The town’s Community Housing Opportunity Funds Committee unanimously supports the proposal, he said, and implementing the change would come at little to no cost to the town. 

Detached affordable accessory structures were introduced to the town code in 2016, allowing such housing on parcels of at least 40,000 square feet. Only three property owners have signed up to participate, Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said; the hope is that by decreasing the minimum lot area, thus increasing the pool of eligible properties, more people will participate. 

The maximum rent charged for such housing may not exceed standards set forth in the code, which is 110 percent of the fair market rent for existing housing as set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Nassau-Suffolk Metro Fair Market Housing Area — $1,548 for a one bedroom unit in 2019. Affordable accessory apartments can be used only for year-round occupancy by a town resident. Such apartments must be between 300 and 600 square feet. They must meet principal structure setbacks as set in the zoning code, except for front-yard setbacks, which must comply with accessory structure setbacks. 

Decreasing the minimum lot size for eligible parcels will not change the character of a community, Ms. Overby predicted, while the benefits would be many: More affordable housing would allow more youth and senior citizens to remain in the town, she said, and businesses would be better able to attract and retain employees. 

“These are people that live here year round, work here,” Ms. Overby said. “We want to make sure we keep young people here.” Time would tell, she said, whether reducing the minimum lot size requirement will result  in more affordable apartments. 

Tom Ruhle, the town’s director of housing, attended the work session. “Every time the board enacts legislation, we try to follow along and continuously improve on it to try to make it more effective,” he told the board. The proposed code change, as minimal as it is, “will go toward making the underlying law more effective,” reflecting the continuous improvement the Housing Opportunity Funds Committee seeks to implement.

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