Op-Ed: Don’t Demonize Apartment Dwellers

This week, the Huntington Town Board called a public hearing on a proposed new code regulating accessory dwelling units- basement or garage apartments in lay terms.
The town board must be considering this action because they see the same demographic and economic trends we all see: Real estate prices continue to skyrocket, inventory of houses under $1.0M is shrinking, our school districts are in an enrollment free fall, and the young and elderly are increasingly leaving for more financially hospitable parts of the country.
Diversifying the housing stock to incent the construction of affordable homes and reasonably-priced rentals will help more local residents afford to live here. But nobody wants to overload our neighborhoods with unregulated density. Moreover, ask any resident of any block across this town and they’ll be able to tell you exactly which homes have illegal accessory apartments, none of which have been inspected for safety and adherence to New York building code.
Housing is a complicated issue needing nuanced and compromised solutions. But what unfolded at the public hearing was disturbing and just sad.
Can we have a discussion about housing without demonizing apartment-dwellers?  Commenters described people not living in single-family homes as being “outsiders,” “dangerous”, or, as one person commented, “ruining the complexion of our community” – am abhorrent sentiment with clear racial undertones. I’d ask those who vilify apartment dwellers: Did you live in an apartment when you were young? Did your children just skip straight from living under your roof to a single-family home?
For so many of us, communal living and apartment living is a rite of passage of young adulthood. It’s part of the “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” narrative- work hard and eventually, one day, if you want to live in a single-family home you’ll be able to afford it. For others, lifelong apartment living is a choice, and for some, it is the only choice.
In Northport Village, multi-family and accessory apartments are just part of the eclectic fabric of our community and have been for years. At last check on our family dog walks, the place has not gone to hell in a hand basket. Apartment dwellers are our neighbors, fellow parents on the sidelines of youth sports games, members of the PTA, police officers, volunteer firefighters, teachers, and patrons at the local bakery or coffee shop. Without accessory apartments and mixed-use housing options, some of these wonderful neighbors might not be able to live here.
There is a discussion to be had as a community about how to do this right. The law proposed by the Town Board surely needs to be scrutinized and potentially revised to best meet the needs of all Huntington citizens. But if opponents of accessory apartments want to be taken seriously and offered a seat at the discussion table, they would be well served to steer clear of demonizing people who don’t live in standalone single-family homes. Such hatred weakens the argument and makes compromise difficult.
Let’s all dig deep and remember a time in our lives when our housing situation was less than stable and flex our empathy and compassion muscles for those struggling with the troubling financial trends in Huntington township, and let’s have a friendly, respectful, and neighborly discussion about the future of housing in our community.

Newsday: Huntington Should Move Forward on Its Housing Plan

2 Replies to “Op-Ed: Don’t Demonize Apartment Dwellers”

  1. OK is a renter or the landlord going to pay their increase in taxes? Added people should just rent the homes from the people who bought them, people worked hard and saved to have a nice life, sorry there’s no do over’s in life and life is not a dress rehearsal.

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