Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation removed from New York State budget following opposition from local leaders
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul last week removed proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) legislation from the state’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget after municipal leaders voiced strong opposition to the initiative.
The bill, which was originally introduced by State Senator Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro), would have required municipalities to allow residential property owners to have an accessory apartment on their properties. The bill would have also allowed for low- and moderate-income homeowners to apply for special financing in order to create accessory dwelling units.
Harckham had suggested that the proposal would create more affordable housing for a range of individuals, including seniors. “At a time when we are facing a severe shortage of affordable housing, here is a low-density solution to the problems that also lets seniors on fixed incomes grey in place and people with unique abilities live close by to loved ones,” Harckham said.
Westchester municipal leaders, including North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas, who also serves as president of the Westchester-Putnam Association of Town Supervisors, expressed outrage at the proposal. Lucas and others objected on the basis of two primary reasons: that the bill was tucked into the state budget rather than being debated as policy, and that it would take power away from local municipalities to set and amend their own laws.
“Everybody I talked to thinks it’s bad,” Lucas said. “And the reason it’s bad is because there’s no planning,” he said, adding that individual municipalities need to conduct environmental impact studies and update their comprehensive plans when factoring for initiatives like Accessory Dwelling Units.
North Salem has had an Accessory Dwelling Law on its books since 1987.
“We make sure there’s parking, there are setbacks…with this type of legislation, one size doesn’t fit all,” Lucas said, adding, “we’ve never denied anybody in our town a special permit for an apartment.”
Following the removal of the legislation from the state budget last Thursday, Sen. Harckham said, “I understand Governor Hochul's decision to remove the ADU initiative from the Executive Budget; this action highlights our primary concern, which is to get all of the details of the bill right, rather than enact a bill right away. I will continue to engage with stakeholders and work to settle all concerns with this legislation. It is important that we keep driving a conversation, however, on affordable housing for our workforce and equitable treatment for our residents.”
Lucas suggested that if affordability is the goal, the state should look to make tax changes that would benefit all residents. “There are things they could do with taxes right now that they’re not doing,” he said, citing various fees and taxes that municipalities have to pay each year, including a Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) maintenance fee and Medicare tax.
“North Salem pays $250 thousand dollars per year to remove snow from the platforms for the MTA," Lucas said. "The MTA maintenance fee is on auto-pilot.”