Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a grant of $900,000 to create more affordable housing on Ithaca’s Hancock Street. This is the latest legislative push to build more accessible spaces in an area that has long struggled with rising prices.
The grant will be awarded to Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services Community Housing Trust, a local organization that develops affordable housing. Tompkins County was one of nine jurisdictions to receive the state funding, which is a part of a larger $7.8 million grant that is given to the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Broome and the cities of Buffalo, New York, Albany, Rochester and Schenectady.
“This is an innovative community partnership to acquiring and renovating distressed properties to create permanent, affordable housing for low and middle-income families,” James said during the announcement.
According to Johanna Anderson, executive director of INHS, this fund will go towards building 18 new affordable homes in an attempt to help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing.
The disparity between the swift growth of Tompkins County’s employment and population –– and the speed at which new housing is built –– has led to a supply imbalance that has made paying rent or buying a home harder for many.
At the same time, Ithaca and its surrounding areas still rank among the priciest in New York, prompting Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 to single out “the displacement of middle-class and poor people due to high rents” as one of the city’s most pressing issues.
“When housing cannot be found close to jobs, services, and recreation facilities, it creates adverse impacts on public health, environmental quality, the cost of local government services, social equity and overall quality of life,” read the Tompkins County 2016 Housing Needs Assessment Executive Summary, a report commissioned to identify ways in which the County can better address housing accessibility.
The large percentage of single-family houses built on scattered lots in the county also stunts the growth of neighborhoods, according to the assessment. Creating affordable housing that cultivates more densely-populated neighborhoods can help fix the “rural character” of counties such as that of Tompkins.
“These are not simply homes, these are people who have found a sense of peace,” Anderson said. “Having a home that is safe and secure allows people a foundation to build upon. It allows people to fight for their keeps, to advocate for another, and above all grow love.”