Five reasons to address a housing shortage with accessory dwellings Long Island, New York


A rendering of accessory dwelling units on a rear lane. From Long Island Index ADU report.

A leafy suburban street in Huntington, Long Island, includes ADUs—but it is difficult to tell which ones based on appearance.

A map of Long Island communities and their ADU regulations.


A report by Long Island Index makes the case that accessory dwelling units (ADUs) could help solve a housing shortage in suburban Long Island, an area with 2.85 million people east of New York City.

ADUs are a controversial topic on Long Island, where an estimated 90,000 illegal apartments have been built in single-family neighborhoods, according to Home Remedies, Accessory Apartments on Long Island: Lessons Learned. ADUs are often located in the backs of houses, sometimes above garages, and are usually not visible from the street.

Of 97 Long Island jurisdictions with zoning powers, seven issue permits for accessory apartments, while another
four allow continuation of apartments that predated their codes. Another 24 permit apartments only in limited circumstances. But 62 do not allow them. Here are five key facts on ADUs.

• If 10 percent of Long Island’s single-family homes added an accessory apartment, “that would take care of a huge part of the region’s housing shortage,” said Chris Jones of the New York Regional Plan Association.

• From the street, it is almost impossible to tell where ADUs are located, according to the report. Streets in a town with ADUs are just as quiet and pleasant as those without. In other words, there is seemingly no downside.

• Three decades ago, when the town of Huntington began permitting accessory apartments for single-family homes, it was tackling two problems endemic to the Long Island region: the growing number of homeowners having trouble keeping up with their mortgages, and the urgent need for affordable housing.

• ADU’s don’t require large infusions of capital, new roads, new sewers or expansion of the electrical grid. Instead, existing neighborhoods absorb that rental-seeking population like a sponge, while stabilizing finances for tax-strapped homeowners.

• “An uglier future was conjured by 700 livid homeowners who converged at New Hyde Park High School in 2008 to blast North Hempstead officials for adopting an ordinance like Huntington’s.” They imagined strangers coming and going at all hours, crime rising, and illegal immigrant children swarming the schools—none of which has happened when ADUs are legalized.