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Hochul pulls back on proposal to legalize accessory apartments

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, visits Javits Center COVID-19 Vaccine Site
Sgt. Sebastian Rothwyn
New York National Guard Flickr
Kathy Hochul visits state partners at the Javits Center COVID-19 Vaccine Site in Manhattan, New York, February 10, 2021.

Governor Kathy Hochul has dropped her budget proposal that would require local governments to expand legalizing accessory apartments — converted garages, basements and backyards as apartments — after receiving bipartisan backlash, especially on Long Island.

"I have heard real concerns about the proposed approach on accessory dwelling units," Hochul said in a statement. "I understand that my colleagues in the state Senate believe a different set of tools is needed, even if they agree with the goal of supporting the growth of this kind of housing.”

“So I am submitting a 30-day amendment to my budget legislation that removes requirements on localities in order to facilitate a conversation about how we build consensus around solutions," she said.

Hochul’s initial plan was introduced in January in an attempt to alleviate the affordable housing crisis in New York.

Over the past month, Long Island lawmakers and homeowners associations rallied against the measure, saying they were concerned for single-family suburban neighborhoods. They worried about the potential impacts that expanding accessory apartments could have on their quality of life, the environment and local school districts.

Brookhaven, Huntington, Hempstead and Oyster Bay town officials, the Suffolk County Legislature, and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman condemned the plan. Hochul’s gubernatorial rivals, U.S. Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), also blasted the proposal for taking control over local zoning issues.

State Assemblymember Fred Thiele, the chair of the Local Governments Committee, praised Hochul for her reversal in a statement, calling her plan “ill-considered.”

“There is no denying that we are currently facing an affordable housing crisis and the construction of [accessory dwelling units] will surely be a component of state and local government’s response,” Thiele said in a February 18 statement. “I, like many of my colleagues, want to see the benefits of [accessory dwelling units] realized in a way that is compatible with each community’s water quality, resources, transportation and infrastructure needs.”

Hochul still has plans to combat the affordable housing crisis, and the emphasis on increasing accessory apartments and improving their safety will be targeted in New York City rather than the suburbs.

Samantha is a former news intern with WSHU Public Radio.