The Huntington Township Housing Coalition hosted a community conversation last week with dozens of residents asking questions and commenting on different housing experiences they have had.
The panels were hosted at the Cinema Arts Centre allowing an open dialogue between Huntington residents and experts, including those from the Housing Coalition, the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters, Leadership Huntington, local libraries, Housing Help, Latinos Unidos and banks.
Some of the issues that were addressed during the four-hour conference were accessory apartments, how to afford a home, housing options for intergenerational communities and how housing and apartment developments impact municipalities.
The underlying question of the morning discussion was, how to keep young people on Long Island and ways that current homeowners can continue to stay.
A panel on accessory apartments drew a lot of attention. Attendees were curious to hear about this issue that many residents dislike, but who many more, think highly of.
“We’re here to educate people,” Roger Weaving, president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, said. “Local people are the ones applying for affordable housing… how can we help people live here who are stuck in basement apartments?”
Right now in the township of Huntington, there are approximately 1,750 legal accessory apartments – but plenty more that are not legalized that are causing distress among their neighbors with fears like, “who will be living there and how will they affect my community?”
“Those who are concerned about illegal apartments should want accessory apartments,” Ed Nitkewicz, accessory apartment hearing officer for the town of Huntington, said.
He added that by continuing to legalize and maintain the old and new accessory apartments, it will continue to make things safer, while also giving affordable housing to people who want to stay on Long Island.
Matt Harris, a Huntington Station resident and activist, agreed saying that, “Accessory apartments are a cost effective answer to the Huntington housing crisis.”
When the panel opened up to questions from local residents, many homeowners were concerned about the constant permit renewals saying that they can become annoying. They also said that removing accessory apartments can cost over $10,000 from a newly purchased house.
While panel members, who also included Joe Rose, the deputy director of the department of public safety, listened intently, they argued that although people may find the permits and overall process a nuisance, it does create a peace of mind for neighbors and really isn’t “a big deal.”
“The policy has changed,” Ken Christensen, former Huntington town councilman, said. “They don’t inspect the whole house anymore… just the apartment.”
While the housing crisis is an issue for millennials, retirees and growing families in the Huntington Township, the conversation allowed questions to be asked, issues to be spoken about and different groups to come together as the first few steps towards keeping people home.