Ithaca, N.Y. –– A new grant gives Tompkins County $900,000 to boost affordable housing.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced on Thursday, during a press conference in Ithaca, that nine cities and counties throughout the state are receiving part of a $7.8 million state initiative to address what James called a “housing crisis.” The program was created by the Office of the New York State Attorney General in conjunction with the non-profit Enterprise Community Partners. The grantees include the cities of Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Schenectady and Ithaca, along with Broome, Nassau, and Suffolk counties.

“New Yorkers need real and permanent solutions that allow them to have the stable economic housing that they deserve,” James said.

According to the 2016 Tompkins County Housing Needs Assessment, which projects county needs through 2025, there is high demand in the community for long-term affordable housing for sale. The assessment states “in recent years, single-family home construction has averaged 165 units per year primarily costing above $200,000, and there has been negligible condominium construction.”

This is disproportionate to county needs which according the report are, “313 units annually, with 28% needed in the $150,000 to $199,999 price range.” Additionally, “the estimated demand for condominiums is 80 units annually, with 41% needed in the $150,000 to $199,999 price range.”

In Tompkins County, the money is being awarded to the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services Community Housing Trust. INHS works in the community to provide affordable housing both by building new homes, and renovating existing ones on land they lease to customers. INHS drives down costs to lower and middle income families by selling homes at prices that are up to 50% below market value and eliminating the cost of the land from the price of their homes.

Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson, who also oversees a committee involved with INHS, spoke at the press conference on the importance of INHS projects in keeping housing affordable for multiple generations.

“These homes are going to be permanently affordable,” Robertson said. “The value of the land is held in perpetuity by INHS in their community housing trust so that when somebody goes to sell the house they’re selling the value of the house without the land price. That’s how is remains affordable forever.”

According to a press release, INHS, “plans to use these funds to support two developments that will result in the creation of 18 new affordable homes, as well as establish working capital revolving funds to be used for land acquisition.”

INHS Executive Director Johanna Anderson said that there are several active projects right now that could benefit from the new funding, but that there are no definite plans yet for the location or structure of the 18 new units.

“We are exploring all options available,” Anderson said. “Some are stand alone, single family. We’re looking at duplexes, we have four units coming on at 402 South Cayuga. It really depends on the site and the community.”

Anderson said INHS will have a better idea of what projects will be developed with the funds by the end of the year.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com