Riverhead moves to prohibit renters who don’t fit definition of a “family”

Civil rights groups called changes "intrusive and offensive"; town says measure meant to insure safety of children

Tri-State /
Aug.August 19, 2021 02:32 PM
(Getty)

(Getty)

UPDATED, Aug. 20, 10:49 a.m.: Riverhead town officials are under fire for moving to enforce an existing code that requires renting out apartment units only to those who fit the town’s definition of a “family.”

The town board is reviewing the proposed change that would make it unlawful for tenants to occupy, or for landlords to rent units to parties that don’t fit that definition or a functional equivalent of a family, according to Newsday.

The town codified its definition of family in 2016. Under that existing measure, occupants must share the entire single- or one-family unit and live and cook together as a single housekeeping unit. It also prohibits tenants from acting as “separate roomers,” or non-related occupants not acting as a traditional family unit.

In a letter to the town board, more than two dozen civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups called the move “restrictive, intrusive and offensive definitions of who qualifies to live in the town.”

Tenants must also prove occupancy is “permanent and stable,” which could mean having children enrolled in school or household members sharing the address for voter and vehicle registration.

The author of the code change, Councilman Ken Rothwell, said the measure was not meant to discriminate against renters. Councilman Tim Hubbard said the purpose of the change was to ensure the safety of children.

But Rob Carpenter of the Long Island Farm Bureau said that temporary farm laborers would not be able to live in communal housing under the new rule. Employers are required to house temporary laborers to qualify them for H-2A visas.

Clarification: The story has been updated to include that the proposed changes seek to make unlawful any violation of the town’s existing rules concerning rentals. They do not impose new restrictions.

[Newsday] — Dennis Lynch






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