August 25, 2022

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: “The Tale of Cornell’s Broken Housing Market”

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To the Editor:

Thank you for publishing this investigation of the housing crisis in Ithaca. I am an alumna who lived in Collegetown in my fifth year, from 2020 to 2021, and experienced firsthand the problems of tight supply, high rents and low quality described in the piece. I also have been involved in the movement to increase housing supply and affordability in New York City, where I grew up and now live. My understanding of the shortage of homes in major cities nationwide informs my perspective on the shortage in Ithaca.

While I was living in Collegetown, I examined the City of Ithaca zoning map and found that a large swath of the land to the southeast of Collegetown is zoned so that only single-family homes can be built. Single-family zoning is often rooted in racial segregation and contributes to suburban sprawl, environmental destruction and the restricted supply and high housing costs that now plague Ithaca’s rental market. Ithaca should follow the lead of California, Oregon and the city of Minneapolis by legalizing multi-family homes citywide, alongside single-family ones.

Section of the zoning map of the City of Ithaca cropped to show the area around Collegetown. The yellow area outlined in bright red is zoned for single-family homes only (R-1a and R-1b).

I encourage readers who live in New York State and care about this problem to support two bills in the state legislature: S7574, which would legalize buildings with up to four families on all residential lots, and S4547A (A4854A), which would legalize accessory dwelling units such as basement apartments across the state. Abolishing exclusionary zoning in New York State is an important step toward a more affordable, inclusive and sustainable housing system.

E. Ciara ’20, MEng ’21