This is a news release written by Legislator Anna Kelles and NOT written by The Ithaca Voice. Click here to submit community announcements directly to The Voice, or email

ITHACA, N.Y. — A lack of affordable housing is a national crisis. According to a recent Harvard study, 11 million individuals are severely rent-burdened (paying more than 50% of their income for housing), 7.7 million of these individuals are living in substandard housing, and a recent national survey suggests a nightly average of 500,000 people homeless (sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter).

Except for a modest improvement in 2015, real income has been decreasing for decades while cost of living continues to rise making it harder for working low and middle-income people to maintain housing. A higher rate of income tax is being used for affordable housing development yet fewer affordable housing units are being built. Even as the need arises and the support decreases, federal programs for affordable housing development are on the chopping block for this year’s budget.

Tompkins County has a housing crisis that perfectly exemplifies the national trend with a current estimated housing shortage of 7,159 household compared to current demand and this does not include expected increase in demand over the next few years (see Tompkins County Housing Needs Assessment). Among the key areas of housing shortage are affordable, senior, and owner-occupied housing. Additionally, a significant number of low-income Tompkins County residents are currently living in housing that does not meet minimum housing code standards.

Like communities across the country, a lack of affordable housing leads to increased strain on low-income families leading to an even greater demand for both housing support and related support services through government programs. Most of these services are administered through departments that report to the Tompkins County legislature’s Health and Human Services (HHS) committee.

As a commitment to the community, each month a department or agency will give a presentation on their housing programs and support services. The Human Services Coalition (HSC) will present at this month’s HHS committee meeting on Monday, June 19th at 4:30pm, in the legislature chambers (2nd floor) of the Governor Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 E. Court Street, Ithaca, NY 14850 (see the meeting portal for meeting agendas). The HSC presentation will focus on the Continuum of Care (CoC) program support for the homeless and at risk of homelessness populations.

We are in uncertain times and knowledge is the key to community engagement and ensuring that support services reach those in greatest need.

Below is a list of presentations that will take place at future HHS committee meetings in the legislative chambers (at 4:30pm) to add to your calendar for the full suite of HHS housing programs and services.

  • July 17 – Department of Social Services
  • August 21 – Department of Youth Services
  • September 18 – Mental Health Department
  • October 16 – Office for the Aging (at 3:30pm)
  • November 20 – Department of Health
  • December 18 – Office of Human Rights