ITHACA, N.Y. — Call it long-term planning. In a deal finalized last week, INHS purchased a Cornell property on Lake Street, with plans for low-moderate income for-sale housing to come at a later date.

The property, 0.6 acres fronting Lake Street, was sold for $25,000 on the 24th, well below assessed value. The parcel was 1.09 acres originally and valued at $210,000, but Cornell reconfigured and subdivided the land. The university wanted to keep the parking lot, but didn’t want the additional land adjacent to it, and so it turned to INHS.

“Cornell approached us about that parcel and asked whether we would be interested in acquiring it. We are planning on affordable for-sale housing, but are just at the very beginning of thinking about the number and type of unit that would be most appropriate, i.e., fully detached, duplex, or townhome.  The homes would become part of our Community Housing Trust, which ensures they will remain permanently affordable,” said Lynn Truame.

Filings with the county clerk’s office indicate the sale has been under discussion since at least July, when non-profit INHS’s Board of Directors approved the purchase. The property is zoned R-3a by the city, meaning a structure could have up to four floors (40 feet tall) and cover 40% of the lot. A theoretical maximum build-out here would be 41,760 square feet.

However, that doesn’t take into account setbacks or site topography. It also doesn’t acknowledge that detached homes, two-family homes or townhomes would most likely not be four stories tall. Give typical home densities of 10-15 units/acre in Fall Creek, the site would conceivably host 6-9 units if similar in structure to neighboring buildings, maybe a few more if a townhouse format with shared walls.

“(W)e really don’t have firm plans yet other than knowing it will be for-sale housing,” said Truame.

Perhaps the best ideas for what might happen here, based on Truame’s description, would be to look at the recently built INHS owner-occupied townhouses on Hancock Street, or the 4-unit for-sale townhome project planned for 402 South Cayuga Street, for which INHS just closed on the sale earlier this week. It would also be worth considering the scattered single-family homes and two-family properties INHS has built around Ithaca over the years for potential examples.

Condominium developments are legally complicated and difficult to finance, so whatever for-sale housing gets developed here would most likely be designed to have its own property lot, where INHS owns the land underneath the parcel and locks the property into its Community Housing Trust, and the buyer owns the house. INHS for-sale housing is typically in the low-to-mid $100,000 range for sale price, and sold to individuals making around 80-90% of area median income, which is generally in the $45k-$60k annual wage range for local families. The housing non-profit also helps buyers with the down-payment.

The relatively modest price and housing trust restrictions on resale (a 2% max increase per year) would make these future homes rather unusual in the Fall Creek neighborhood, where home values have been rapidly appreciating over the past fifteen years, leading to bidding wars and concerns over gentrification. The amount of low-moderate income owner-occupied housing has been decreasing at a steady rate, leaving only a handful of protected properties like the few INHS Community Housing Trust already existing in the neighborhood.

To be clear, future plans are a while out. INHS has a lot of proverbial irons in the fire, and this one will take a while to heat up as the organization focuses on other sites further along around Ithaca and Tompkins County.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.