Mayor, council disagree on best path forward
As the City Council continues to work its way through creating more affordable housing options in Beacon, it appears stuck in a stalemate between a proposal to simplify the creation of low-cost accessory apartments and renters’ rights legislation that city attorneys fear won’t hold up in court.
The accessory dwelling unit proposal is favored by Mayor Lee Kyriacou. By allowing ADUs on all existing single-family properties in the city, the hope is that homeowners will begin creating smaller apartments that families, young adults, seniors and others could rent at affordable prices.
According to a draft law, the apartments could be between 200 and 1,000 square feet, but no more than 50 percent of the square footage of the accompanying single-family home. The owner of the property would have to live on-site, and ADUs could not be used as short-term rentals.
Planning Board approval would be required if construction is involved, but the building inspector could approve ADUs contained within an existing dwelling. The Planning Board could also waive parking requirements when deemed appropriate.
In theory, the law would make it less arduous to create an on-site apartment, generating revenue for the homeowner and increasing Beacon’s affordable housing stock.
However, Planning Consultant John Clarke told the council last month that the city had only received eight ADU applications in the last five years, so it’s unclear how quickly a simplified measure would noticeably affect affordability.
Meanwhile, the council has been inundated with pleas from the public to enact a “good-cause eviction” law that, if similar to a bill introduced last year in the state Legislature, would prevent evictions without a court order, prevent landlords from arbitrarily deciding not to renew leases and require landlords to justify rent increases above 1.5 percent of the consumer price index.
Although the bill failed to move ahead in the Legislature, similar laws have been adopted in Albany and Hudson, and another is being considered in New Paltz.
There are 10 to 20 eviction cases pending in Beacon, which is not an abnormal number, City Court Judge Tim Pagones said this week.
However, City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis has advised the council that an already-adopted “statewide regulatory scheme” preempts local landlord/tenant measures. “If this were permitted,” he wrote in a memo, “then each municipality could have its own unique regulatory scheme, some that might protect tenants and others that might grant more rights to landlords.”
Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair said on Monday (Oct. 18) that he’d received a second opinion from the City University of New York School of Law indicating that a local measure would not be preempted because it would not remove or restrict building owners’ rights to eviction proceedings but “defines the grounds upon which a tenancy expires.”
A municipal good-cause eviction law would likely be upheld “as a valid exercise of Beacon’s home-rule authority,” he said, reading from the opinion.
Representatives from Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and the Legal Aid Society also called in to the council’s meeting this week to say they believe the city can legally adopt good-cause legislation.
Council Member Jodi McCredo agreed, saying that renters’ rights should take precedence over the ADU discussions. Keeping people in their homes “is more important than building other units that may or may not be affordable for people who may or may not already be living in Beacon,” she said.
But “rents and prices didn’t go up because landlords just raised them,” Kyriacou countered. “They went up because people wanted to move here.”
The mayor said that the council should “rethink zoning in each and every urban area that is now considered popular” in Beacon as a component of a plan for increasing affordability. Building housing along with commercial uses in parking complexes could be another component, he said, along with a potential new high-rise building at the Forrestal Heights housing development.
“Unless we address the underlying problem in terms of supply, I don’t think we’re ever going to solve it. That is a longer-term solution but it is not in the least delusional,” Kyriacou said. “It is basic and very simple supply and demand, not very different from the law of gravity.”
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