Officials from East Hampton and Southampton towns joined the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons Monday for a public forum on the success and failure of local accessory apartment laws.
Both East End towns have established accessory apartment laws over the last decade to create more affordable housing opportunities. Southampton has approved 131 new accessory apartments since the town’s most recent legislation was passed in 2002, while East Hampton has approved just five since its law was revised in 2007.
“Our law in East Hampton doesn’t work, so I’m not going to go through it,” East Hampton Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said at the forum at the .
Hamptons League Housing Chair Barbara Jordan, who also serves on the East Hampton Town’s housing advisory board, housing authority and demographics study group, moderated the panel. She shared figures suggesting that home prices are so inflated on the East End that mortgages are costing many local families as much as 50 percent of their income, while typical American families spend 30 percent of their income on home loans.
“Many people in our towns are house stressed,” Jordan said.
East Hampton has had laws on the books allowing accessory apartments since 1984, Quigley said, but the town made revisions in 2007 with the hope that more residents would seek permits for accessory units. “They are needed,” the councilwoman said, explaining that accessory apartments help young people afford their homes by having a tenant, while at the same time providing an affordable place to live for those tenants.
East Hampton Town has 22,874 housing units and 15 of them are legal accessory apartments, Quigley said, noting that is just .00052 percent of the housing stock. She added that six of those 15 permitted accessory apartments are out of compliance and the owners are going before the court with violation notices. It’s not a friendly law, Quigley said, adding that she’s looking to follow Southampton’s legislation.
In Southampton, homeowners must have a minimum lot size of 30,000 square feet to build an accessory apartment. To be eligible, the homeowner must occupy the property, the apartment may not exceed 35 percent of the dwelling, it must be between 400 and 1,000 square feet, cannot have more than two bedrooms, and the tenant must be the homeowner, a relative of the homeowner or an employee of or in Southampton Town.
The permit process demands a certificate of occupancy and approval from the building inspector and the architectural review board; a three-year permit costs $100, though it is waived if the apartment is owner occupied.
East Hampton’s minimum lot size for an accessory apartment is 15,000 square feet, and only 20 apartments may be constructed within each school district. Tenants must be year-round residents and must prove legal residency in East Hampton Town prior to renting an accessory apartment. Apartments must be between 300 and 600 square feet with a maximum of one bedroom and two tenants. The town requires that there be two extra spaces in the driveway for tenants and initial permits cost $50, though it is $500 to legalize an existing illegal apartment. The apartments must be affordable and renewal costs $25.
Quigley said the percentage of affordable homes sold in Springs and Montauk dropped from around 50 percent to around 5 percent from 1997 to 2009, while six percent of homes were affordable in Wainscott in 1997 and none were affordable in 2009.
“We need younger, older and lower income people in East Hampton,” Quigley said, noting that “moving up-island” is not an acceptable solution. “This goes to the heart and soul of our community,” she said, promising that East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson is in favor of revising the laws and they hope to do it sooner than later.
“We need to be creative and we need to be aggressive” to make sure people can stay on the East End, Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi said. He added that Southampton has a relatively easy approval process and the laws ensure that apartments will be safe. “We’ve created a reasonable regulatory environment and structure around it,” he said.