Board Looks to Rein in Rents for Accessory Apartments

Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilwoman Christine Scalera in a Southampton Town file photo. Stephen J. Kotz photo

Hoping it will lead to the creation of more affordable apartments in the town, the Southampton Town Board last week further tweaked draft legislation that would reduce the minimum lot size required for homeowners who want to put an accessory apartment in their homes from three-quarters of an acre to one-half acre.

The legislation would eliminate the current requirements that tenants be family, work as emergency responders, or work in or for the town. Instead it would impose a limit on the maximum rent that could be charged at any apartments created under the law starting January 1, 2019. Board members agreed the rent limit would be a simpler, more easily enforced standard.

Under a formula calculated annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the limit for a one-bedroom apartment currently would be $1,518 a month. Existing apartments created under the current town code would not be affected by the rent limit.

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman pushed for the board to set a public hearing on the proposal soon. “I hate to say I’ve been working on this for three years, going back and forth,” he said. “I really would like to get something on the books that will hopefully add to our inventory of affordable apartments for our workforce.”

The legislation would allow the board to set an annual cap on the number of new accessory apartments to be allowed across the town. Concerned about too many apartments being created in parts of town that already are densely populated, board members liked Councilperson Christine Scalera’s suggestion that each apartment require a development credit from the land the town has preserved in individual school districts across the town.

Diana Wier, the town’s director of housing and urban development, told the board that reducing the minimum lot requirements for an accessory apartment in a single-family house would increase the number of potentially compliant lots from about 12,000 to about 17,000. She said only 521 apartments have been created under the current code, which went into effect in 2002, or 4 percent of the qualifying parcels. At that rate, the proposed legislation would see the creation of 226 more accessory apartments over 15 years.