HTHC comments on proposed C6 zoning changes

Dear Supervisor Lupinacci and Members of the Town Board,

The Huntington Township Housing
Coalition appreciates your efforts to address the issues surrounding housing in
the Town of Huntington, and especially those in the Village.  A thriving downtown attracts many potential
customers, and if we do not address the issue of parking, we will choke off the
health of commerce in the town. In addition, we recognize the need to take
adequate steps to ensure the quality of our groundwater and our bay for
generations to come.

Of course, if we do not address our
affordable housing crisis, then the people who work in our thriving restaurants
and shops will have a difficult choice of either very long commutes from
outside the town- often not possible for restaurant workers who get off their
evening shift after the buses have run- or to live in illegal apartments, where
they have no recourse should they find the building substandard or
overcrowded.  The recently-passed ADU ordinance
is a good step in that direction, but it is far from enough.

At the HTHC we are very concerned
about the effect the additional restrictions in the proposed changes to the C-6
law will have on building in the town of Huntington.  It is always difficult to build affordable
units, and adding more steps and tighter restrictions will make it even more
difficult.  We therefore suggest the
following ideas:

  1. Keep the proposed restrictions
    specific to the already-sewered area of Huntington Village and Halesite
    .  It seems like most of the issues that
    people want addressed are specific to the Village, so let’s not overreach with
    the legislation, and keep the changes specific to the affected area.  Other parts of town have different geographies,
    different issues, and different water tables. 
    And broad sweeping laws can have unintended consequences.  If these changes stop all building in the
    Village, we are still going to need to build somewhere, or we will exacerbate
    our illegal apartment problem.
  2. Consider exempting projects that have
    a 50% or more affordable component from the new restrictions.
      We are at a point where even people who are
    not fans of building more apartments will concede we need more affordable
    housing, so providing an incentive to create more than the presently-mandated
    20% affordable quota may be welcomed by developers
  3. Build a new parking structure now.  If parking is the problem, then a parking
    structure is the answer, and it always has been.  A parking structure would allow the town to consider
    variances on parking for new apartment buildings, leading to the creation of
    more affordable units.
  4. Be very cautious about the wording of
    your language on architectural review.
      While almost everyone can name at least one
    recently-built building in town they think is ugly (and not always the same
    one!), architectural review has a long history of being used as a tool for
    segregation and for stopping affordable housing.  By its very nature it is decided by more
    subjective judgement than other aspects of zoning, and requiring extra steps
    (like a full-blown architectural review board) or too many extra flourishes
    will drive up costs and make building affordably even less possible.
  5. Attack the water issues with the
    facts, not what people think the facts are
    .  Hypoxia in Long Island Sound and Huntington
    Bay is primarily due to excess nitrogen that comes from the run-off fertilizers
    for residents’ lawns, and the primary cause of pollution in the ground water is
    septic tanks.  Both fertilizer and septic
    tanks are characteristics of single-family homes, not apartments above
    stores.  Nor is the town waste treatment
    facility in any danger of reaching capacity any time soon, so there is plenty
    of time to consider expanding it if the town deems it necessary.  Can the town do a better job enforcing the
    rule that water that falls on your property stays on it, or by requiring
    offsets to allow the highway department to capture more water before it reaches
    the Village?  Absolutely.  But the answer to improving our groundwater
    and the water in the bay lies in restricting fertilizers and getting more homes
    on sewers and off septic tanks, not in forcing people into illegal apartments
    because we make it too hard to build the necessary living units.

Again, we appreciate you trying to
address some of the town’s longest-existing and most-pressing problems.  We hope you will consider our proposals.

Sincerely,

Roger Weaving Jr.

President, Huntington Township Housing Coalition

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HTHC position on proposed C6 zoning modifications

The Huntington Township Housing Coalition appreciates the town’s efforts to address the issues surrounding housing in the Town of Huntington, and especially those in the Village. A thriving downtown attracts many potential customers, and if we do not address the issue of parking, we will choke off the health of commerce in the town. In addition, we recognize the need to take adequate steps to ensure the quality of our groundwater and our bay for generations to come.

Of course, if we do not address our affordable housing crisis, then the people who work in our thriving restaurants and shops will have a difficult choice of either very long commutes from outside the town- often not possible for restaurant workers who get off their evening shift after the buses have run- or to live in illegal apartments, where they have no recourse should they find the building substandard or overcrowded. The recently-passed ADU ordinance is a good step in that direction, but it is far from enough.

At the HTHC we are very concerned about the effect the additional restrictions in the proposed changes to the C-6 law will have on building in the town of Huntington. It is always difficult to build affordable units, and adding more steps and tighter restrictions will make it even more difficult. We therefore suggest the following ideas:

  1. Keep the proposed restrictions specific to the already-sewered area of Huntington Village and Halesite. It seems like most of the issues that people want addressed are specific to the Village, so let’s not overreach with the legislation, and keep the changes specific to the affected area. Other parts of town have different geographies, different issues, and different water tables. And broad sweeping laws can have unintended consequences. If these changes stop all building in the Village, we are still going to need to build somewhere, or we will exacerbate our illegal apartment problem.
  2. Consider exempting projects that have a 50% or more affordable component from the new restrictions. We are at a point where even people who are not fans of building more apartments will concede we need more affordable housing, so providing an incentive to create more than the presently-mandated 20% affordable quota may be welcomed by developers
  3. Build a new parking structure now. If parking is the problem, then a parking structure is the answer, and it always has been. A parking structure would allow the town to consider variances on parking for new apartment buildings, leading to the creation of more affordable units.
  4. Be very cautious about the wording of your language on architectural review. While almost everyone can name at least one recently-built building in town they think is ugly (and not always the same one!), architectural review has a long history of being used as a tool for segregation and for stopping affordable housing. By its very nature it is decided by more subjective judgement than other aspects of zoning, and requiring extra steps (like a full-blown architectural review board) or too many extra flourishes will drive up costs and make building affordably even less possible.
  5. Attack the water issues with the facts, not what people think the facts are. Hypoxia in Long Island Sound and Huntington Bay is primarily due to excess nitrogen that comes from the run-off fertilizers for residents’ lawns, and the primary cause of pollution in the ground water is septic tanks. Both fertilizer and septic tanks are characteristics of single-family homes, not apartments above stores. Nor is the town waste treatment facility in any danger of reaching capacity any time soon, so there is plenty of time to consider expanding it if the town deems it necessary. Can the town do a better job enforcing the rule that water that falls on your property stays on it, or by requiring offsets to allow the highway department to capture more water before it reaches the Village? Absolutely. But the answer to improving our groundwater and the water in the bay lies in restricting fertilizers and getting more homes on sewers and off septic tanks, not in forcing people into illegal apartments because we make it too hard to build the necessary living units.

We appreciate the town board is trying to address some of the town’s longest-existing and most-pressing problems. We hope they will consider our proposals.

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Housing Coalition Supports Accessory Apartment Law

The following comments were submitted today to Huntington Town Hall:
May 20,2019
Dear Supervisor Lupinacci and Members of the Town Board,

The Huntington Township Housing Coalition strongly supports the proposed changes to the accessory dwelling unit law outlined in Resolution 2019-243.

Accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) are the market-based solution that are the fastest, cheapest, least intrusive way to create affordable housing. The Town should be making every effort to increase their creation.

House-based apartments currently have an average median rent 25% below similar-sized apartments in buildings, making them more affordable than even the affordable set-asides in new buildings. Their rents are often more stable over time; if the owner likes the tenant living in the same house, they tend to raise rents less often than a profit-making building would. They are the least intrusive because unlike a new apartment building, legal ADU’s cannot rise above 10% of the dwellings in a neighborhood, ensuring they do not concentrate in any one school district. Neighbors often don’t even know where the ADU’s are on their street. And because the footprint of the house usually doesn’t change when creating an ADU, the process at town hall is faster than that for creating new apartment buildings.

The current law as written discriminates against owners of smaller houses with smaller frontages, which is why it is important to change the frontage minimum from 75’ to 50’. Often the owners of the smaller houses are those most in need of the additional income. Because there are no changes to the 10% cap, nor to the requirement to having parking for the owner and tenant off the street, lowering the minimum frontage will not result in more cars parked on the street, nor a flood of apartments into a particular neighborhood.

Nor will the changes in the law result in a greater strain on our water systems or roads. When the CDA holds a lottery for affordable housing, over 80% of the people who apply already live and work in the town of Huntington. There people are already here. They are living in illegal apartments with no rights and potentially unsafe conditions, or in their parents’ basements below ground. Making the ADU law for flexible will not bring a rush of outsiders into the town, but will allow our citizens already living here to move into the light and on record in safer, legal apartments.

ADU’s help relieve a number of important issues, but the current requirement that the homeowner live in the larger side of the home hampers the flexibility. Removing this restriction allows younger citizens to buy homes and live in the smaller part and rent out the bigger part, switching to the larger part as their family grows. It would allow older residents to age in place, using the income to help pay their ever-growing taxes. Even if they rent out the larger part of the home, the impact is no greater than when the older citizens had their children living with them. Homes with ADU’s are in such demand they currently sell for $50,000 more than equivalent homes without ADU’s as those young first-time homeowners need the extra income to make the mortgage and the taxes.

Making the law more flexible will also help relieve the pressure to build more, larger apartment buildings. Statistics we’ve often quoted show how great the demand for apartments is; allowing ADU’s into a wider range of homes will help create supply without building large buildings.
Please pass the resolution to reduce the minimum frontage and allow homeowners to live in either side of the home.
Sincerely,
Roger Weaving Jr
President, HTHC

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Affordable Housing Summit November 17th, 2018

The Huntington Township Housing Coalition, in conjunction with the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Huntington, Leadership Huntington, Housing Help, the Huntington Public Library, the half Hollow Hills Public Library, and Latinos Unidos, is holding a summit on on affordable housing called “Community Conversation on Housing for All-Huntington Township”.  With opening remarks by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, the event will have breakout sessions that cover how to afford your home, new legislation proposed for accessory apartments, the different types of housing that are currently in demand, and the impacts that housing choices have on the environment, traffic, and the character of the town.  The event will be held November 17th from 8:00 AM to Noon at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington

Registration is free, but we ask that if you plan to attend you register so we can plan which sessions end up in which theaters.  Registration can be done at huntingtonhousing.eventbrite.com.  A flyer detailing the event can be found here:

CommConvoHousingFlyer4

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New report highlights how lack of affordable housing leads to homelessness

This report draws from two-and-a half years of study by the Welfare-to-Work Commission’s Supportive Housing Work Group.  It assesses the critical shortage of housing for Suffolk’s most vulnerable residents at risk of becoming homeless: working-poor people earning under 50 percent of the Area Median Income ($55,400 for a family of four) and, more pointedly, people with mental illness who need supportive housing. The most recent count found 3,868 homeless people on Long Island. It costs Suffolk $19 million a year to shelter the homeless. Click to read the report: SWTW supportive housing report with cover letter

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