The village Board of Trustees held a public hearing on June 24 to pass a local law that would prohibit new boarding, rooming and lodging houses in Rockville Centre and allow the board to regulate existing ones.
According to the law, a boarding, rooming or lodging house is any facility — excluding hotels, motels, hospitals, nursing facilities, senior housing or college dormitories — in which lodging is provided for money. Trustee Edward Oppenheimer, who approves of the law, said that it is intended to prevent potential hazards that are often associated with boarding houses, including attracting transients to the village and irresponsible behavior from tenants due to lack of oversight.
“A couple of years ago, there was one house that was basically defined as a single-room occupancy,” Oppenheimer said. “There was no heat on the outside porch, so there was a space heater with an extension cord, which overheated, lit and started a fire. Each room in the house was a bedroom, and there was a crib in the basement, too. That’s the kind of stuff that this law is meant to prevent from happening.”
The only licensed boarding house in the village is operated by an airline, and according to Dan Casella, superintendent of the Building Department, it has never created any problems. “I’m not aware of any other current boarding houses that are an issue,” said Casella.
Under the new law, homeowners would retain the right to rent out a whole house — or, in the case of multifamily homes, sections of a house — provided that the homeowner pays the village a licensing fee to register the house and submit to a routine inspection, and that the renting party qualify as a “family unit,” or a group of people living in a house that is overseen by one of them. A homeowner hoping to rent a room to a person who is not a family member, however, would be unable to do so.
“We’re not preventing anybody from renting out their house legally to a family unit,” said Oppenheimer. “What we are preventing is somebody renting their house out to a group of two or more unrelated non-family-unit individuals.
“Part of the discussion that I had, and one of the reasons I [pushed] for the law,” he added, “is because I was convinced that it has enough flexibility in it. If I’m hiring an aide to live in the house, they are actually part of the family unit, and this law would not prevent that from happening.”
According to a 2012 study conducted by the Stony Brook University Center for Survey Research, due to the expense of Long Island homes and a fear of losing much of the region’s young population, over 60 percent of Long Islanders support changes to zoning laws that would make it easier to install legal rental apartments in single-family homes.
In Rockville Centre, according to the 2010 Census, husband-wife families account for 55.9 percent of the population, while 32.8 percent are non-family households, and the median value of owner-occupied housing units is $619,100, compared with $301,000 in New York City. Given these demographics, the new law could prove prohibitive to young people looking to move in.
But Oppenheimer said it should have little effect on the village’s current young residents. “There’s nothing to say in the law that young people living as a family unit are prohibited,” he said. “There’s a couple who’s not married living in the house around the corner from me. They happen to own the house, but they’re living together — boyfriend and girlfriend. This is not preventing that kind of tenancy, because they’re living as a family unit.”
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