Town officials, local law enforcement and grassroots organization, The Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners sent a clear message on illegal boarding homes at a community meeting held Wednesday night; they aren’t welcome.
The meeting, organized by the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, a group dedicated to fighting what it calls an epidemic of illegal boarding homes in the area, provided updates on the recent progress it has made working with local officials and Stony Brook University on the issue.
Earlier this year the Brookhaven town board voted unanimously to limit the number of unrelated people who can live in a single home from eight to four; it voted to double the maximum fines for code violations; it banned the paving of front yards to create parking lots; and it shifted the burden of proof from the town to the landlords themselves to prove that the folks living in the house are indeed related. The town has also begun to expedite legal proceedings against the most egregious homeowners.
More recent changes by the town include updating of its website to include the names and addresses of the landlords of all whole house registrations and the release of a mobile app that can be used to report town violations.
At the evening meeting the group handed out new lawn signs designed to promote welcoming families into the area, a change from their previous sign, which was worded to show their stance against illegal housing. They have also launched their own website.
“We want those homes that are boarding houses filled with families and kids,” said Bruce Sander, one of the group’s leaders, which is now proposing that the town agree to a moratorium on whole house rentals in council district 1, which includes Stony Brook and Setuaket, until they get the issues resolved.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, told the crowd that over 160 properties in the local area are under investigation and that they have taken enforcement action against 87 properties and that 37 properties have come into compliance.
“I am committed to doing one thing; insuring residential neighborhoods stay residential neighborhood and illegal housing… does not exist in this town,” said Romaine.
Both town officials and the concerned homeowners group acknowledged the steps Stony Brook University has taken to curb illegal rentals, which, among other things, includes accepting any ads for off-campus housing that cannot provide a current verifiable rental registration.
"This has cut down on ads by fifty-percent," said Michael Arens, a spokesperson for the university who spoke at the meeting.
Arens told the audience that they are seeking off-housing campus alternatives with private developers and landowners, as well as creating 1,100 more beds on campus in the next three to five years.
Off-campus behavior was also a discussed. Sander said there are seven known party houses in the area and that the police are now required to send a sergeant if they receive a 911 call on an off-campus party.
“We believe that we should not have to sacrifice the quality of our life at the expense of outside investors who are looking to fill their pockets,” said Sander.