The following is a republished press release from Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services and NOT written by the Ithaca Voice … click here to submit community announcements directly to The Voice, or contact me at msmith@ithacavoice.com.

ITHACA, NY – In 1968, the Department of Housing and Urban Renewal (HUD) made available the Neighborhood Development program to fund housing agencies to rehabilitate urban homes, and in 1974 the Housing and Community Development Act was passed to create community development block grants – of which the City of Ithaca first received $422,000 in 1975. This was the financial basis for non-profit INHS to form on September 24, 1976. With one employee – Executive Director Art Pierce – and board members made up of city residents and local business owners – INHS was well on its way.

It was a risky venture as Ithaca was one of the smallest cities to receive funding. But the City had quite a few “eyesores” that were keeping some neighborhoods from attracting new homeowners. INHS’s main goal from the onset was to work closely with the City to help revitalize its neighborhoods – and quickly found its footing rehabilitating houses in the Southside neighborhood. The timeline below speaks to just the highlights of INHS’s rich history. 

Lucy Brown and Thys van Cort are founding members of the INHS board, who remain on the board to this day. Speaking to her 40 years, Brown states: “The greatest experience is seeing up close the many people we have helped find a quality home. What I love even more is how the City of Ithaca, other organizations, and other people in our community have steered them to INHS. We’re all connected, and continue to be.” Van Cort adds: In my 35 years as Director of Planning and Development for the City of Ithaca, working on INHS projects was the most rewarding activity I engaged in. In the first year, our budget was $50,000 with no assets. Now we have a budget of $3.1 million and over $25 million in assets – all in the service of low income people and stronger neighborhoods.”

Herman Sieverding, who served on INHS’s board for a total of 28 years, remarks: “What stands out for me is that INHS is an incredibly well run organization that has increasingly provided quality, affordable housing. I’m confident that as INHS expands their service area outside of Ithaca and Tompkins County, they’ll continue to bring the same benefits to these communities.”

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INHS has many historical pictures digitized, in particular many “before and after” pictures of houses we have rehabilitated over the years. Please contactSuzanne Cerquone to request them.


Here are some highlights of INHS history leading up to more recent years. 

1977: 
• Bernice Miller first client in the first time home buyer down payment assistance program (Miller later served on Loan Committee until her death in 1991)
• Staff grew to three, including admin assistant and rehab specialist

1978:
• The Mini Repair program – small home repairs for the elderly and disabled – launched
• City increased contribution to INHS loan fund
• 216 South Plain Street first home purchased under House Recycling Program

1979
• INHS expanded focus to Northside neighborhood
• CDBG (Community Development Block Grants) funding increased to $300,000
• New Executive Director hired: Elizabeth Prentice
• 51 loans approved for homeownership

1980:
• HUD awards INHS with a Neighborhood Self ¬Help Development Grant to start the duplex program
• Energy conservation program debuts
• 207-209 South Titus Ave. is first duplex purchased
• Home maintenance training course begins

1981:
• INHS expands beyond rehabilitation program and decides to begin developing and managing rental housing by amending its articles of incorporation to allow the organization to work beyond property ownership
• HUD provided the City of Ithaca a $2.4 million, three-year Small Cities Grant, of which $800,000 was earmarked for INHS
• Rental rehabilitation program first developed and implemented

1983: 
• Elizabeth Prentice resigned and Douglas Dylla, former Rehabilitation Coordinator, took over as ED 
• First Loan Officer hired 
• Ithaca City School District accepted INHS’s $60,000 bid for Henry St. John elementary school building 

1984:
• Renovation of Henry St. John began 
• SONYMA offered low-interest funds that would only have been able to how moderate- and middle-income residents, but not lower-income, so INHS negotiated a deal where they could match it with INHS loans. 

1985: 
• Apartments in Henry St. John leased up
• Received $300,000 from NYS Housing Trust Fund to expand into Lower West Hill (“The demand for INHS services in this new target area is enormous.” Lucy Brown, Board President)
• New landlord loan program developed to encourage repairs to substandard rental property in effort to avoid displacement of current tenants

1987:
 ● INHS explored creating Mutual Housing Association (“a cross between renting and owning a home”) 
• INHS received a Presidential Recognition Award 

1988:
• About a third of all loans since start of INHS were repaid, and only one loan since 1984 was delinquent 
● Completed restoration of 406 West Green Street, a historic brick building from the 1850s with special preservation considerations
• INHS, City of Ithaca, and Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation signed an agreement to develop a local Mutual Housing Association (MHA)  

1989
•    INHS collaborated with the City of Ithaca to plan a 16-unit Single Room Occupancy (SRO) facility for potentially homeless individuals; this ultimately became the Chartwell House (completed in August 1990)
•  INHS was lead agency to implement RESTORE (Emergency Home Repairs Services for the Elderly) in collaboration with Better Housing for Tompkins County and Historic Ithaca 

1990
•  Paul Mazzarella hired for Executive Director position 
•  By 1990, substandard buildings had decreased from 87% in 1975 to only 24% within the target areas. 25% of all neighborhood buildings had received some kind of aid from INHS since 1982. 81% of owner-occupied residences in service area were in good condition
•  Mini ¬Repair Program became a joint collaboration between Better Housing for Tompkins County (BHTC) and INHS as the Tompkins County Home Repair Program, administered through BHTC 
•  Mutual Housing Association became its own organization, shared office space with INHS
•  Between 1986 and 1990, nearly every owner-occupied home on Floral Ave was helped by INHS

1991:
● Work began on 316-318 South Corn Street, the year’s major renovation project, meeting INHS’s goal of targeting the worst houses in Ithaca for rehabilitation in order to spur other neighborhood improvements. 
● 117 Cleveland Ave, a fire-damaged house, was purchased from owners for renovations, which began the following year

1992 
● Record amount loaned: $1,027,517 from INHS Revolving Loan Fund
● Scott Reynolds hired as coordinator of the Mini ¬Repair program (and is still with us, now as Deputy Director)
● Fairfield Crossing (14 rental units on Spencer Road) construction begins

1993:
● INHS Homebuyers’ Club was started to provide training and encouragement to prospective homeowners
● Construction of first phase of Northside Mutual Housing, with seven duplexes, is complete 

1995:
● New INHS office building purchased and moved to new site. The building was donated by the Ladies Union Benevolent Society. 

1996:
● Two more course sessions added to the Homebuyers Club
● In celebration of national NeighborWorks Week and the state-wise Housing and Community Partnership Week, INHS invited state commissioners and state/federal legislative representatives as part of a walking tour on South Corn Street and Cleveland Ave to show the rehabilitation going on
● Board of Directors allows INHS House Recycling properties to be listed with local realtors

1997:
● INHS hosts its 20th¬ anniversary celebration, with speeches by former Executive Directors Art Pearce, Beth Prentice, and Doug Dylla. 

1998:
● After 6 years of volunteering as MHATC’s Executive Director, Paul Mazzarella decides to leave that position, and INHS Board agrees to reach out to MHATC’s board to rethink the executive director situation (since Paul was the only staff person there) 

1999:
● Lucy Brown receives prestigious Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership Development, one of nine people nationwide 

2000:
● Sub standard homes are down to only 26%, in large part thanks to INHS’s work 
● INHS’s vacancy rate reached a record low of under 1% 

2002: 
● As part of National NeighborWorks Week, INHS held a City Living Celebration on the Henry St. John building grounds to celebrate the 25th anniversary. INHS introduced the Lucy Brown Community Leadership Award and Florence Hoard Landscape Beautification Award. 
● New playground dedicated as the Marc Leathers Community Playground on the Henry St. John building park site 
●INHS properties were at less than 0.5% in vacancy 

2003: 
● INHS celebrated its 1,000th loan
● A partnership proposal from Conifer Development Corporation sparks a discussion on whether INHS should expand outside city boundaries
● Housing Rehabilitation reached a milestone of 100 recycled houses upon completion of the Victorian property at 402 S. Plain Street  

2004:
• INHS looks into develop rental housing for land on Floral Avenue. Feasibility study initiated due to steep incline of the parcel. 

2005: 
● In light of Hurricane Katrina, the Board discussed whether INHS could donate any money. Board voted unanimously to lead a campaign, $5,000 of which would be pledged from INHS by taking 10% of donor donations 
● Mazzarella introduced the Community Housing Trust idea before the board, explaining its ownership and finance structure 

2006: 
● Mazzarella reported that he had met with Better Housing for Tompkins County about collaborative opportunities. BHTC hires John Spence as a new Executive Director, after which the organization suggested that INHS and BHTC form a small working group to explore collaboration

2007: 
● Cedar Creek selected as the name for the West Hill project
● Tompkins County approaches INHS for support for the proposed county housing strategy
● The board discussed and approved INHS adopting LEED ratings for all projects 

2009:
● In a first step toward what would become the Breckenridge Place project, INHS offers to purchase the site of the Women’s Community Building as well as the adjacent parcel, 111-112 W Seneca St. After extensive negotiations, INHS and the Ithaca Federation of Women’s Organizations agreed on purchase price and other business details. 
● Mutual Housing of TC is dissolved after facing severe financial difficulty, with a new INHS subsidiary created to own the MHA property
● Scheduled ribbon-cutting ceremony for Cedar Creek

(Featured photo provided.)

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.