ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s that time of the year again. With the arrival of each March, it comes time for the city to take the state and federal grants it has been awarded, and decide how to disburse them in a way that does the most community benefit. As a result, the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) will be holding public hearings on March 26 and April 2 as part of the process to determine who will receive money from its U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants.

The annually awarded grants are the Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Program (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME). The requests are designed to help people, or specifically to fund organizations in the community that help people in the low- and moderate-income category. The highest amount of funding is requested for housing-related projects.

All summed up, there’s $2,257,231 requested, and $1,178,596 available (less when the $170,063 to run the IURA and $120,000 for the revolving low-interest Economic Development Loan Fund are deducted), so this is a highly competitive process this year. Applicants present their projects, answer questions from IURA staff and appointed public committee members, and the proposals are weighed on factors such as the applicant’s track record, the likelihood of success, and if the project delivers the most “bang for the buck” to the Ithaca community.

This year, 23 applications were received, a modest increase from the 17 received last year. The intended uses for the grant dollars range from job training to community services to the development of affordable housing. Below is a summary of the applicants, with links to each application at the start of the entry.

The Founders Way townhomes.

Housing

1. 2020 Homeowner Rehab – Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) is seeking $125,000 toward its ongoing home rehabilitation program for lower-income homeowners (often seniors on fixed incomes). Examples include roofing, porch rebuilds, replacement of exterior siding, plumbing, heating and similar big-ticket expenses that are difficult to pay for with limited means. The request is the same size as last year’s award, and the program typically covers half a dozen major home rehabs each year.

2. Small Repair Program – Another longstanding program, INHS is requesting $32,500, the same amount awarded last year, to fund small emergency repairs for 40 low-income people with disabilities, seniors, single heads of households and other city homeowners.

3. Founder’s Way For-Sale Townhomes – INHS typically submits one development project every year. This year is the Founder’s Way townhomes, which requests $200,000 towards the $1.25 million construction of four new two-and three-bedroom for-sale townhomes in the northwest portion of the site of the former Immaculate Conception School. These units would sell to families making 80% of area median income or less.

4. Hawkins 622 Clinton Street Project – Applicant Jerame Hawkins is requesting $119,000 to assist with the construction costs for an affordable/mixed-income duplex with one unit for a household making at or below 60% AMI, and 1 fair market rent unit (as defined by federal HUD), for a minimum of 1 year.

5. Benton 532 Clinton Street Project – Similar to Hawkins’ proposal, applicant Kenneth Barton is requesting $50,000 to assist with the construction costs for an affordable/mixed-income duplex with one unit for a household making at or below 80% AMI, and 1 fair market rent unit for a minimum of 1 year.

6. Security Deposit & Rental Subsidy Assistance for Formerly Incarcerated – Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources (OAR) of Tompkins County is requesting $44,000 to cover the expense of direct payments to landlords to cover security deposits and modest rental subsidies for up to 35 formerly incarcerated individuals returning home to the community and at risk of homelessness.

7. Northside Apartments – Cayuga Housing Development Corporation, the non-profit affiliate of the Ithaca Housing Authority, is requesting $300,000 to cover the costs for professional fees (e.g., engineering/architectural), environmental testing, permit fees, market study, Capital Needs Assessment, energy consultant, and legal fees to rehabilitate 70 housing units for low-moderate income persons in the Northside neighborhood, and constructing up to 12 additional housing units for low-moderate income housing.

8. Security Deposit Assistance for Vulnerable Households (2020-21) – Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga Counties is seeking $61,500, the same amount requested last year, for security deposits for 100 low-income tenants, including five Housing for School Success participants, a support program for previously homeless families.

Economic Development

9. ReUse Job Skills Training & Employment Connections – Finger Lakes ReUse would like $96,445, about $12,000 less than last year, to help cover the costs of stipends and salaries as part of its ReSET skills and employment training program.. This year would serve at least 21 low- and moderate-income adults with employment barriers (either currently unemployed, disabled, homeless, or formerly incarcerated).

10. Work Preserve Job Training: Job Placements – A long-running program and recipient of HUD funds, Historic Ithaca is requesting $67,500 to help place six low to moderate-income individuals in permanent employment. This includes intensive one-on-one training on goal setting, project management and execution, resume writing, interviewing, and a transition from Historic Ithaca’s store into a new employer. Previous transition employers include Agway and Challenge Workforce Solutions.

11. Hospitality Employment Training Program (HETP) – The Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) is requesting $120,000 for its Hospitality Employment Training Program (HETP), which will provide hospitality and office/administrative job training and readiness for 20 individuals, and job placement for 14.

12. Family Child Care Microenterprise Business Development – The Child Development Council of Central New York Inc. is applying for $68,650 to cover the costs of administrative salaries during the development and launch of a 10-week family child care business training course with supporting materials, including assistance with micro-enterprise licensure, quality-assurance, and long-term viability.

Public Facilities

13. Southside Park Enhancement Project – The City of Ithaca is asking for $113,950 to pay for repairs of existing deteriorated park amenities and construction of new park features in three neighborhood parks (Baker Park, Titus Triangle Park, Wood Street Park) in the Southside neighborhood. This includes solar lamp posts, repairing and replacing park benches, trash cans and trash service, signage and a new walking trail at Baker Park. Former Stewart Park playground equipment, removed in the recent renovations, would be reinstalled at the Wood Street Park.

14. Reimagining Ithaca Community Gardens – Project Growing Hope (PGH) is requesting $54,950 to help cover the costs of garden improvements as it reconfigures its plots to its new permanent home as part of the Carpenter Park redevelopment (the Carpenter Park team and PGH are investing $185,000 into site improvements for the gardens). The IURA Application asks for funding for storage sheds, welcome gates, construction costs and materials for an event pavilion, building class scholarships, and an acoustical blanket to shield gardens closest to B&W from sound ‘triangle’ that bounces off the building from Route 13.

15. New Gym Renovation – The GIAC has a second application to be reviewed this year, requesting $300,000 to help cover the renovation costs of the former Immaculate Conception School gymnasium. The funds would cover some of the design/architecture fees, materials, and hard construction costs to renovate former the gym for indoor recreation space and afterschool program space for the GIAC Teen Program and greater Ithaca community. The total project cost is $1,100,400.

16. Food Pantry Mechanical Dock Leveler – Tompkins Community Action is applying for $14,470 to cover the costs of professional fees and concrete repair-work to replace a soon-to-be-unusable mechanical dock leveler that allows receipt of food from Southern Tier Food Bank delivery truck for weekly Food Pantry deliveries.

17. Roof Replacement – The Baptized Church of Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith at 410-12 First Street is asking for $16,000 towards a $24,000 roof replacement project and allow its food pantry to continue providing community services.

18. Curb Ramps to Complete ADA Compliance at West Village TCAT Bus Stop – The IURA is filing a request to its board of community members to ask for $11,000 to cover the costs of materials and labor (e.g., professional fees, construction, staff salaries) to install two sidewalk curb ramps and sidewalk panels at West Village Place/Elm Street intersection on Lower West Hill, removing barriers and improving safe access to TCAT’s West Village bus stop.

Public Services

19. GO ITHACA Low-Income Support – The non-profit Center for Community Transportation is requesting $12,200 in partial fare subsidies for low-moderate income bus and ride-hail users, as a way to reduce transportation barriers to work and services. A small amount would also cover administrative costs.

20. 2-1-1 Information & Referral – Another long-time program applicant and funding recipient, the Human Services Coalition (HSC) is asking for $20,000 for its ongoing 2-1-1 information and referral call service.

21. Work Preserve Job Training: Job Readiness – In tandem with their job placement program (Item #10 above), Historic Ithaca, Inc. has filed a request for $20,000 for job readiness training for 20 low- to moderate-income community members. Training takes place at Historic Ithaca’s Significant Elements architectural salvage store at 212 Center St., where participants build their professional skills in retail and customer service, warehousing, online sales, facility maintenance, and furniture repair.

22. Immigrant Services Program (ISP) – Catholic Charities is aiming for a $30,000 grant to help cover the costs of its support services for immigrants and refugees looking to begin another chapter of their lives in Ithaca. The program funds would support 100 individuals as Catholic Charities seeks to help place them in homes, jobs and support their efforts to integrate into the community.

23. Fair Housing Enforcement Project – Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. has filed a request for $90,000 to provide legal counsel to low– and moderate-income households pursuing fair housing and income discrimination claims and serve as a reference on Code Enforcement on issues of habitability. The money would also fund classes and training programs on filling out rental applications, etiquette for meeting with potential landlords, and Tenants Rights Toolkits to help ensure LMI families can obtain safe housing, and know their rights as they maintain effective working relationships with landlords.

Brian Crandall

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