One-bedroom rents hit $2,500 in Suffolk; Brookhaven enacts code changes


The average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Suffolk County has just hit $2,500, according to, an online rental listing service that tracks apartment cost data daily.

In the meantime, Brookhaven Town is looking to do its part in curbing prices by increasing the apartment stock.

Last week, the Town Board approved code amendments designed to fast-track applications for town residents looking to build one-bedroom apartments in their homes. First off, Brookhaven Supervisor Dan Panico said the old process was so “arduous” that most people simply ignored it and built illegal apartments.

“We must be honest with ourselves and recognize that most people don’t follow the rules, and adopt the flawed theory that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission, because the process was arduous and timely,” he told Greater Long Island.

Panico also said the code changes will help address the island’s rental housing shortage by incentivizing homeowners to build.

“Accessory apartments in owner-occupied single family homes can help alleviate some of this strain while also providing income for those people dealing with the crushing burden of school taxes, inflation and even homeowner insurance,” he said.

For perspective, the $2,500 per month average for March 2024 in Suffolk County is a full $900 more per month than in Bridgeport, Conn., directly across the Long Island Sound.

Local real estate experts say that, while there are other factors at play, the overwhelming factor that has led to higher rent prices across Long Island has to do with supply and demand.

In short, too many renters looking for too few desirable places to rent drives up prices.

Recent research appears to back those claims for cities and regions, though so-called supply skeptics maintain “allowing denser development simply makes the land under housing more expensive and opens the door to ‘land price speculation‘” reads this Bloomberg article on the debate.

Either way, changes are afoot for homeowners and potential renters in Brookhaven Town.

Changes in Brookhaven

Before the code changes were approved Feb. 22, here’s what it took to build an accessory apartment in Brookhaven under a two-pronged application submission process:

  • The applicant would file for an accessory apartment license together with construction plans.
  • Once the plans were reviewed and approved, a town building inspector would conduct a preliminary inspection, and if all met the current criteria, the application would be put on the Accessory Apartment Review Board agenda. 
  • The applicant would then have to send certified mailings to surrounding neighbors before a scheduled hearing.
  • The applicant would then appear at the hearing and wait for a determination from the AARB for an approval or denial. If approved, the applicant would wait for an approval letter and then be able to submit a building permit for the construction of the apartment.
  • If denied, the applicant would have to submit a Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) denial application to be processed and then submit to the BZA.

What happens now?

Here’s what the town’s code changes designed to streamline the process mean for applicants:

  • The building division will now take in the accessory apartment license application together with the building permit application for the construction of the apartment at the same time. 
  • The applicant will only need to submit construction plans with the building permit and no longer submit duplicative plans with the license application.
  • Application requirements will now include a public notice sign to be posted on the property for 10 days and an affidavit of posting will be submitted as proof. 
  • Upon issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy for the alteration, the accessory apartment license will be issued simultaneously.

Under the old code, renewal applications were also determined by the Accessory Apartment Review Board to be approved at a hearing before a renewal license would be issued, officials said.

That process would take up to two months.

As long as all of the paperwork is correct and no violations are on the property, the building division will now issue the renewed license right away. All licenses are now valid for a period of two years.

“The bottom line is that, if you want to do it the right way, we will work with you,” Panico said. “However, as we have made the process much easier, eliminating the red tape, we will also redouble our efforts on illegal housing because those who simply refuse to follow any process will be headed to district court.

“It should be noted again that these are for one-bedroom accessory apartments in owner-occupied homes. Rooming houses and the letting of rooms remains illegal in Brookhaven Town.”

Top: An apartment in Suffolk County, N.Y. (GLI stock photo)

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