🏠 A proposed law paves the way for accessory dwelling units statewide

🏠 Separate units are prohibited in towns across the state

🏠 Bill opponents say it strips power from towns

New Jersey is looking to overstep and take away too much control from local governments, according to opponents of a proposed law that's designed to increase housing availability throughout the state.

Many towns across New Jersey prohibit houses from developing accessory dwelling units (ADU) — an additional living space in a garage or basement, for example. But a bill advanced by a Senate committee would preempt those rules and essentially give residents everywhere the green light to make the move.

SEE ALSO: NJ Homeland Security: The biggest threats to 'soft targets' this year

Specifically, municipalities in New Jersey would be required to adopt one of two model land use ordinances that would be crafted by the state Department of Community Affairs, or create their own to be approved by state officials.

According to the bill's language, an ADU would have to feature facilities for independent living, "including space for sleeping, food preparation, and sanitation."

An option for older and cash-strapped residents

"Many people want to stay in their current home and their current community, and ADUs can play a vital role making this a possibility," said Katie York, associate state director of advocacy for AARP New Jersey. "Removing restrictions on ADUs will lead to more housing choices for smaller and older families."

Advocates cite a housing affordability and supply problem as a main reason for New Jersey to permit separate dwelling units statewide — a town-by-town approach can be confusing for residents and officials.

According to an AARP analysis of Census data, it was estimated that more than 6,000 New Jerseyans aged 55 and older experienced homelessness in 2023.

"We see that a one-bedroom apartment, on average, in New Jersey costs almost $1,600 per month," York said. "To put that in context, the average Social Security retirement benefit in New Jersey is less than $2,000 a month."

Takes away local control

The Democrat-sponsored legislation was introduced in January and was advanced as a committee substitute — a combination of two bills — on Feb. 15 by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

Similar legislation was proposed last session as well. The New Jersey State League of Municipalities has been against the proposal from the start.

"The League opposes this legislation because of the strict preemption of local land use and zoning controls," the group said in a statement. "While there are no doubt benefits to be derived from the construction of ADUs, those benefits are only possible with effective local planning and management."

Model ordinances from the state, according to the bill, would have include maximum height and square footage requirements. The League notes the bill also prohibits sewer connection fees for ADUs.

Report a correction 👈 | 👉 Contact our newsroom

LOOK: Here's how much grocery shopping now costs in the U.S.

The average cost of groceries for one person per month in 2023 was around $337. But how does your state compare? Do you pay more, or less? Data compiled by Zippia takes a look at the average monthly grocery bill per person in all 50 states. States are listed from least expensive to most expensive and are rounded up to the nearest dollar.

Gallery Credit: Mike Brant

2024 Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge raises $2.75M

More than 8,000 people got freezin' for a reason on Saturday, Feb. 24 for the annual Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge, which raises millions of dollars for Special Olympics New Jersey.

Gallery Credit: Andrew Miller/For New Jersey 101.5

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM