ITHACA, NY – A rare ray of light in Ithaca’s ongoing affordable housing crisis: the planned redevelopment at 210 Hancock St. is ready to begin construction.

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On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo announced that the project would be the recipient of a $5.3m award. It is one of three affordable housing projects across the state that received similar grants – the others being located in Monroe and Westchester counties.

These grants come from the State’s Home and Community Renewal Agency. The “shovel-ready” status of the projects and the fact they fit into the agency’s goals of “revitalization, economic development, mixed-income and mixed-use development, workforce housing, and affordable housing preservation” fast-tracked the process. The grants were awarded just six weeks after they were applied for.

The redevelopment should bring 59 new apartments to Ithaca. The big question: can they reasonably be labeled as “affordable” housing for the average Ithacan?

According to a press release from the governor’s office, apartments will be “affordable to households earning between 27 percent and 105 percent of Area Median Income.”

Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services Executive Director Paul Mazzarella put those numbers between $25,000 and $60,000, according to an Ithaca Journal report. Mazzarella also said construction should start in the next four months.

As part of the redevelopment, two underused buildings will be demolished. In their place, a commercial office suite and a Head Start facility operated by non-profit Tompkins Community Action. The Head Start program will serve 30 low-income children ages three and below, as well as provide additional resources for low-income families.

The final piece of the redevelopment puzzle involves reconstructing two city streets to eliminate automobile traffic. This will make room for a playground, an extensive bike and pedestrian path network that connects to the Cayuga Waterfront Trail.

Assemblywoman Barbara S. Lifton said, “I am glad to see state funding coming to provide high-quality affordable housing in Ithaca. This project will strengthen the neighborhood by taking a vacant one-story structure surrounded by a large surface parking lot and converting it into a mixed-use residential housing project that is located close to downtown Ithaca and city parks.”

“Moreover, it will fulfill a dire need in our community – providing quality affordable housing. As rents and housing prices have increased in recent years, Ithaca residents are being forced out of the city, as they can no longer find an affordable place to live. This is a project that has the potential to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.