When Governor Kathy Hochul (D) spoke about increasing affordable housing options across New York City during her recent State of the State address, it was something most residents were fussed with. OK. Then the state of the state book came out with more details.
Local lawmakers paused when they saw a proposed plan would allow residents to build secondary suites without seeking approval from their local zoning board, essentially eliminating single-family zoning laws. While most Long Island elected officials believe our area needs more affordable housing, the majority disagree with Hochul’s proposed plan.
Looks like she has good intentions. Such a plan would allow a landlord to create an apartment. One of the hopes is that adult children can live longer at home and have more time to save for their own homes. Or, it could provide space for aging parents who can’t afford the cost of living in New York or keep up with all the things a household needs. Being able to turn a basement, attic, or garage into an apartment sounds better than families traveling back and forth to another state to see their parents or kids.
As it becomes more and more difficult to buy a house, living longer with your parents is sometimes the most affordable option. And while there was a time when people lived longer at home simply by sleeping in their childhood bedroom, now that more and more teenagers are going off to college, when they come home they crave their own space and don’t want to explain to mom and dad why they leave the house at 10 p.m. to meet friends. They would like to have company and not worry about their parents walking into the living room and joining in the conversation or embarrassing them.
And older parents yearn for their freedom too. Gone are the days of grandma and grandpa coming to live with the family and sleeping in the guest room. As homes have gotten bigger over the past few decades, people have become accustomed to having a fair amount of personal space.
It should also be noted that in Brookhaven and Huntington, the cities allow secondary suites on locations with specific regulations, including that the owner of the land on which the secondary suite is located must reside in the dwelling that contains the ADU , and only one apartment accessory is allowed on the premises. Smithtown has limited exceptions.
Of course, we understand why many elected officials are skeptical. This proposed Hochul plan needs careful consideration. Many areas of Long Island are or are becoming overcrowded. While it is nice to keep our parents and children close to us, it can be aggravating when cars are parked all over our streets and the roads are congested. We know that not everyone will build an apartment for family members to have more affordable living conditions, but many will. And some will add them to their homes, not to help family members but to collect rent from strangers.
Our infrastructure is not able to attract or keep people on the island even though we want our children and our parents to stay here.
Our planning and zoning boards work together to decide what is best for our areas and allow residents to speak up and voice their concerns. To increase the number of affordable housing along the North Shore, elected officials will have to come together to think about and identify the best sectors to create less expensive housing options, such as proximity to train stations and major highways. Options like these can keep extra cars off our local streets, so a quick run to the grocery store doesn’t turn into an hour-long ordeal.
Change may be good, but handing the responsibility for increasing the supply of affordable housing to residents who may not be experts in density and infrastructure is not a wise move.