As demands for Ithaca housing soar, a new option emerges: Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services purchased a previously University-owned plot of land located near North Campus on Oct. 24 with the goal of developing it into affordable housing for local families.
The land — 0.6 acres situated in the Fall Creek neighborhood — was initially leased to the owners of the apartment complex previously known as Gun Hill apartments, who used the land as a parking lot, according to Simon Allen, associate vice president for asset management.
Once the original owners sold their share in the apartments — now known as Auden Ithaca — the new owners only wanted to use part of the land underneath the parking lot, leaving Cornell with a patch of land it had no use for. As a result, the University approached and asked INHS if it was interested in buying the plot.
Lynn Truame, INHS senior real estate developer, called the purchase an “unexpected opportunity” in a statement to The Sun. The University sold the parcel of land to INHS for $25,000, even though the total 1.09 acres of land was originally valued at $210,000.
“We of course said [yes], since it’s difficult to find any land at an affordable price in the City of Ithaca,” Truame wrote in the statement.
INHS is a non-profit part of a national network of Neighborhood Housing Services and aims to make affordable housing accessible in Tompkins County through redeveloping neglected properties, constructing new homes and helping people buy their first homes. The non-profit also provides services to neighboring counties including Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Schuyler, Seneca and Tioga.
With this newly purchased piece of land in Fall Creek, INHS plans to develop for-sale housing. The organization has yet to decide on the number of units and the type of units it will develop, whether it’s attached townhomes or stand-alone single-family homes.
This housing will be a part of the INHS Community Housing Trust, a program INHS uses to sell homes to people with modest incomes in search of their first home. According to Truame, including the Fall Creek property in this trust will help ensure that the housing developed there stays affordable.
Under the Community Housing Trust, there will be a cap on the price for the houses developed on the plot — in the event any future homeowners decide to sell.
While INHS has no specific timeline for developing the land, the organization plans to conduct some architectural studies, which will be used to determine what can best fit on the site. INHS also plans to host community input sessions to get feedback from locals on how to best utilize the land.
With for-sale affordable housing projects, it typically takes INHS less than two years to develop the land. Once INHS develops a concrete plan for the plot, Truame told The Sun that it could take up to a year to secure funding and to go through the land use approval process. Construction is expected to take anywhere between six to eight months.
According to the Ithaca Voice, properties in the Fall Creek neighborhood have increased in value, causing concerns over gentrification of the area among county officials. Typically, homes renovated and developed by INHS are priced at around $140,000 to $150,000 and are geared towards those who make around 80 percent of the area’s median income — approximately $47,000 to $67,000 for local families. Truame described these families as mostly “working families who are working service industry jobs.”
Since the land is located near Ithaca Falls — which has been found to have high levels of lead in the past — Truame told The Sun that INHS did some environmental testing before it acquired the plot. The tests found no contamination in the area.
Currently, INHS is also working on affordable housing and rental developments in Ithaca on Cayuga Street, West Buffalo Street and the corner of West Court and North Meadow Street.