The Role of Local Governments in Accessory Dwelling Units
Re: Assembly Bill A4854, the ADU Enabling Act
Hello. I am Rebekah Morris, Senior Program Manager at the Pratt Center for Community Development and Steering Committee Member of the Basement Apartments Safe for Everyone Campaign here in New York City. I thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of the proposed legislation. Pratt Center is a community-based planning non-profit and we have focused on basement legalization policy for over a decade and a half. We strongly encourage the Assembly to move on the passage of Assembly Bill A4854.
This weekend I was reading the New York Times and came across a stunning fact. There are an estimated 1.38 million homeless school children in America and one out of every 12 of them live in New York. That is a fact that New York should be ashamed of and that New York should be doing everything in its power to fix. This is the responsibility of all of us, all our communities—neighborhoods, towns and cities—to work together to fix. In one of the richest states in the richest country in the world, there are no excuses for that statistic to be a reality. Again—one in 12 children.
So how can we come together as a state to work on righting this wrong? One very important piece of the affordable housing puzzle is better utilization of our current built environment to create ADUs, such as basements, attics, and garages; and creating the legislation needed to ensure every community—not just poor communities, but wealthy communities too—allows for the construction of accessory dwelling units. With this legislation we can quickly and efficiently add housing to our insufficient supply while ensuring that these units are safe and healthy for tenants; legal for homeowners who need extra income to pay their bills; and that localities that typically ignore the challenges of poverty and inequality take on a small part of their fair share in solving the housing crisis.
Anti-density regulations like parking requirements and other restrictive zoning make safe, legal ADUs practically impossible here in New York City and in many other communities across New York State. This ADU legislation provides a road map for these communities to begin to break down these barriers, while ensuring that the fundamental makeup of a community is not drastically changed. It creates guardrails while allowing for flexibility so that towns and cities still have local control for shaping their individual ADU building codes, while ensuring that NIMBYs don’t create such large barriers to implementation that they are effectively able to block the construction of this much needed housing.
It is unjust and wrong for people to live in substandard housing, or no housing at all—our essential workers, our immigrant neighbors, seniors, low-income communities of color—they need the Assembly and Senate to work together to find all the tools necessary to ensure everyone is housed safely and affordably. This ADU bill is a great way to do just that.
New York always wants to be at the forefront of progress. That’s one of New York’s biggest bragging rights—we try new things that other states haven’t even begun to think about. And yet, on ADUs, we are already behind many other parts of the nation. California, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maine and Hawaii—all have enacted legislation to allow for ADUs. We have ignored a key piece of the housing solution for too long.
I am encouraged to see you pushing in the right direction—to begin to right some of the unjust housing policies that have long-term repercussions for our most vulnerable neighbors and fellow New Yorkers.
We look forward to working with the New York State Assembly, the New York State Senate and Governor Hochul’s Administration in creating and passing legislation that will not only allow for homeowners to have more rights for their own property, but ensure each community has more housing to put towards righting the wrong that is one in 12 schoolchildren who are homeless in this country, living here. Thank you.
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