Southold boosts accessory dwelling grant awareness

Southold Town homeowners interested in building an accessory dwelling unit can apply for a grant worth up to $125,000 to fund the project.

Last December, Long Island Housing Partnership, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit that seeks to provide affordable housing opportunities, launched its Plus One ADU Program, which earmarked $2 million using funds provided by the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation to disburse as grants of up to $125,000 to Southold Town homeowners for the construction or renovation of new or existing accessory dwelling units. Through the program, the group also began managing similar funding pools for residents of Brookhaven and Huntington towns.

Under current Southold Town code, ADUs are permitted in multiple zones and homeowners can have one unit either within the primary residence with a separate entrance or in a secondary free-standing structure on their property, sharing an address and electrical, water and septic hookups with the primary residence. An ADU must be a minimum of 220 square feet and cannot exceed more than 25% of the square footage if part of a primary residence or 750 square feet for a secondary building. Through the LIHP program, applicants can use grant funds to bring an existing ADU up to code.

Southold joined the LIHP program to bolster and diversify its housing stock as it combats an ongoing affordable housing crisis and town officials hope year-round rental options provided by ADUs may help fill some of the gaps. 

“[Residents] understand we need affordable housing because they see it every day,” said Southold Town government liaison officer Gwynn Schroeder, who manages the town’s affordable housing registry of more than 600 entries. “I think for the most part, as long as [ADUs] are managed well, I think people will accept them. We get a lot of blowback when bigger projects are proposed, so this might be a way of not only giving a tenant a place to live, but helping somebody that otherwise might not be able to stay in their house [to have] the opportunity to stay. So I’m hoping the community will embrace it.”

Current town code allows a homeowner to rent an ADU in their primary residence to tenants of their choosing on a year-round basis at any rate. However, homeowners must rent ADUs built in a detached structure to either a family member or someone from the town’s affordable housing registry. Tenants selected from the affordable housing registry can be charged up to the maximum affordable monthly rent the Southold Town Board approves each year based on annual metrics released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD recently released its figures for 2024, and Ms. Schroeder and town planning department staff members are currently working with the Town Board to calculate this year’s affordable rental rates. The board-approved rates for 2023 range from a maximum of $1,536 per month for a studio to $3,245 for a four-bedroom apartment.

Roughly 20 Southold residents have so far applied for the accessory dwelling grants, LIHP executive vice president James Britz said, and four were approved as of Friday.

“These were approved applicants that went through our screening process,” Mr. Britz explained. “They’ve signed the agreement now for the funding source to be there, and they’re selecting their contractors to start the pre-development work, which is getting municipal approvals and creating the plans.”

By comparison, Mr. Britz said approximately 125 Brookhaven Town homeowners and 60 in Huntington Town submitted Plus One ADU Program applications. As of Friday, 14 Brookhaven applicants and five in Huntington received approvals.

Due to the program’s popularity in those nearby towns, LIHP received approval for an addition $2 million to be added to those municipalities’ funding pools. Mr. Britz said LIHP could receive additional funds for the program next year, which could be earmarked for Southold Town if there is sufficient local interest in the program.

Ms. Schroeder and Leslie Weisman, the chair of the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals, joined LIHP construction program coordinator Doug Hirst late last month for a public information session to increase awareness of the program. The event — hosted by Southold Peconic Civic Association — drew a crowd of approximately 50 residents to the Southold Town Recreation Center on Peconic Lane.

“It was a very good turnout,” Ms. Weisman said. “There’s substantial interest in what would be involved in creating accessory dwelling units in the Town of Southold because its a potential boost to assist with the affordable housing or family housing crisis that we have out here.”

Southold has long allowed ADUs inside primary residences, Ms. Weisman explained. In 2010, the town updated its code to allow free-standing ADUs in preexisting accessory structures. From 2010 through this past April, Ms. Weisman said, the town received a total of 66 applications for free-standing ADUs; 51 were approved, three were withdrawn and the remainder were denied.

Depending on the time and place, ADUs have either drawn ire from neighbors or been touted as a useful community planning tool. Ms. Weisman believes Southold could amend its code again to further incentivize ADUs, and said various major cities — including Los Angeles, Calif., Seattle, Wash., Austin, Texas and Portland, Ore. — “are loosening up their zoning constraints to encourage [ADU] development.

“ADUs were pervasive before World War II everywhere in this country; they were extremely popular,” Ms. Weisman said. “But after World War II, the G.I. Bill of 1944 really created the suburbs … Suburbanization became ubiquitous and with that, land use regulations were established to instill conformity and to protect lower density development. It wasn’t until the ’50s that zoning was even put in place, and that zoning created barriers for ADUs because they were favoring single-family housing development. But now [ADUs] are rising again in popularity all across the country in high growth and high cost areas.”

Southold Town residents interested in learning more and applying for grant funds through the Plus One ADU Program may visit