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Town proposal would relax restrictions, cap rent on accessory apartments

Homeowner Vince Taldone, right, at the entrance to

Homeowner Vince Taldone, right, at the entrance to the accessory apartment he has built in his Flanders home, with his tenant John Langan on Nov. 20. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Nearly 2,000 properties in Southampton Town would become eligible for an accessory apartment under a plan that also caps rents as a means of addressing the South Fork housing crunch.

Southampton Town code currently requires property owners have a three-quarter-acre lot to obtain an accessory rental permit, but the law has no rent restrictions. Town officials are considering a change that would allow property owners on half-acre lots in certain less densely populated hamlets to obtain a permit, but dictates all rents are kept to an “affordable” standard to serve the town’s workforce.

“I think we all understand, for the most part, our workforce has been priced out of the housing market,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said during a recent town board work session.

The proposed law would make 1,953 more properties eligible for accessory apartments, town officials said. Not all would be expected to participate, and that number is still under the 4,729-unit shortage outlined in a 2008 housing study. That number is undoubtedly higher in 2018, said Southampton Housing and Community Development director Diana Weir.

“We need rentals, rentals, rentals,” she said. “Not everybody can afford to buy a house.”

There are currently about 500 permitted accessory units in the town, she said.

Property owners will still have to adhere to building and Suffolk County health department standards, as well as zoning setbacks. Accessory units include basement apartments, small cottages or a section of a property’s main home.

The change would only apply to the hamlets of Eastport, Westhampton, Water Mill, Tuckahoe, Noyack, Northampton, North Sea, Flanders and Bridgehampton.

The bill would also require tenants make less than $151,700 per year for a family a four, which is 130 percent of area median income. Family members of the property owner would be exempt from that requirement.

Rents would be capped at $1,221 for a studio, $1,527 for a one-bedroom and $1,878 for a two-bedroom. Southampton Town code does not allow for accessory apartments with three bedrooms or more. The new requirements would only apply to new applications.

The code change would help people like Flanders civic leader Vince Taldone, who lives on a lot smaller than three-quarters of an acre but who obtained a zoning variance in 2013 to build a basement apartment. He leases the space to a Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance Corps. member for $1,500 per month including utilities, income that offsets Taldone’s mortgage.

“It makes it so I can live here in retirement and not be panicked about how high my taxes are going to go,” said Taldone, a retired city planner.

Some wondered if the rules should be relaxed further to create more units near downtowns and hamlet centers. Michael Daly, a Sag Harbor real estate agent and a member of Next Gen Housing Collaborative, a group that advocates for sustainable workforce housing, noted the proposal would not apply to many lots in dense downtown areas, which are the most desirable for young people.

“It [the proposed change] will create accessory apartments in more of the rural areas, but we really need to create more apartments in the business centers,” he said.

The proposal

Changes: Property owners on half-acre lots in certain hamlets are now eligible for a permit, rental fees would be waived, tenants must make less than 130 percent of area median income

Potential additional units: 1,953

Rent restrictions: $1,221 for a studio, $1,527 for a one-bedroom and $1,878 for a two-bedroom

A public hearing on the matter is set for Dec. 20 at 11 a.m. at Southampton Town Hall, 116 Hampton Rd., Southampton

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