File photo of Mayor Myrick

ITHACA, N.Y. — Mayor Svante Myrick identified the affordable housing crisis as the “largest threat” to the City of Ithaca in his annual “State of the City” address Wednesday night.

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“This rising tide of housing costs already has swamped the poorest in our community and is threatening young professionals, young families. It is threatening families who have been here for generations who own homes. Nobody is exempt from this,” he said.

Myrick said there were four main elements to creating the “ideal city” — that it be safe, accessible, empowering and affordable.

Ithaca excels in the first three categories, Myrick said, but is failing on the fourth.

“We are a caliber city that does not need to compare itself to any city but the ideal — there’s not another city out there that is a suitable benchmark for us, and the past is not a suitable benchmark for us,” Myrick said. “Our benchmark has to be what is perfect.”

Related: Past coverage of Ithaca’s affordable housing crisis

Related: New report shows just how hard poor must work to live in Ithaca

Myrick highlighted new measures the city would be pursuing in the first year of his second term to tackle the affordable housing crisis:

1 — Inclusionary zoning

Myrick said a Common Council committee would take up the idea of “inclusionary zoning” in February.

Under inclusionary zoning, the city would require private developers to also construct affordable units as part of their projects.

This would “make it easier to build to meet demand while stopping the cycle of gentrification,” Myrick said.

See related: How might ‘inclusionary zoning’ change Ithaca housing market?

2 — Plans for South-Side, West-End

Myrick said the city will be creating “community plans” to encourage the right kind of development in the city’s South Side neighborhood and on its West End.

This work will be informed by the city of Ithaca’s “Comprehensive Plan,” which was passed in September, according to the mayor.

3 — Improving outdated city facilities

Myrick said that several city departments operate in outdated facilities, including the Department of Public Works, Ithaca Fire Department and City Hall.

Myrick announced the creation of a city taskforce to figure out how to improve those facilities — and, in doing so, reduce their costs and thus the burden on taxpayers.

4 other highlights from Myrick’s speech:

Myrick’s “State of the City” address also touched on the following points and plans:

1 — Consolidating police services |

One of the initiatives Myrick highlighted was an ongoing plan to consolidate police services in Tompkins County.

Local officials have started working with the state to get an independent evaluation of how the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Ithaca Police Department might reduce costs by sharing resources.

A consolidation could prove a blow against high takes and an “opportunity too large to be ignored,” Myrick said.

2 — Successes of first term |

Myrick began the speech by comparing this year’s “State of the City” address with the ones he had delivered in previous year.

He emphasized that when he first took office, the city faced a major budget gap and crumbling infrastructure.

“I’m proud and glad to say the city of Ithaca is a far better, stronger and healthier place to live than it was 4 years ago,” he said.

(Our three-part series on Myrick’s first term can be seen here.)

3 — Improving structure of city volunteers on boards and committees |

Myrick called on the city to improve the output of the dozens of volunteers that serve on its boards and committees.

“We need to truly re-imagine the way we use our talented boards,” Myrick said.

Myrick will be working with Common Council member Deb Mohlenhoff on a proposal to get better mileage and communication with the city’s volunteers.

4 — South-Side Community Center |

A fourth item Myrick mentioned was to consider folding the South-Side Community Center under the city of Ithaca’s umbrella.

The organization may be better off as a city agency than as a privately run non-profit, Myrick said.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.