ITHACA, N.Y. — With every March comes a contest for funding in the city of Ithaca. Like clockwork, every 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 benefit for the community. As a result, the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) will be holding public hearings on March 25 and April 1 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.

Added together, there’s $1,736,272 requested, and $1,176,378 awarded for the city’s use (actually 1,013,078 when the $163,300 to run the IURA and $90,000 for the revolving low-interest Economic Development Loan Fund are deducted), so this makes it a competition for grant funds. 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, 24 applications were received as well as one $30,000 pre-award application for an Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) home rehab planned at 110 Auburn Street. The intended uses for the grant dollars range from jobs 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.

Housing

1. 2021 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 long-running program, INHS is requesting $33,475, $975 more than last year, to fund small emergency repairs for 40 low-income people with disabilities, seniors, single heads of households and other city homeowners.

3. State Street Apartments – Visum Development Group and its affordable partner Providence Housing Development Corporation of Rochester are seeking $100,000 to cover soft costs for their $22.9 million project at 510 West State Street. Soft costs include professional fees (e.g., engineering, architecture), environmental testing, permit fees, market studies, energy consultant fees, and legal fees for construction of their 57-unit multi-family housing project, which would serve households making 30% Area Median Income (AMI) to 90% AMI. Six of the units (3 one-bedroom, 3 two-bedroom) would be set aside to serve individuals or families recovering from domestic violence, and four additional units would be set aside for individuals recovering from substance abuse.

4. 511 South Plain Street For-Sale Duplex – INHS typically submits one larger development project every year. This year, it’s two smaller projects. One is the 110 Auburn home rehab, and the other is this project, a duplex planned for a vacant lot at 511 South Plain Street in the Southside neighborhood. The $80,000 request would be put towards the $610,445 construction of two highly energy-efficient two-bedroom, 1.5 bath units (1,020 and 1,150 square-feet). Each unit would be sold to a lower-income homebuyer making 80% or less of area median income or less, and the property would be locked in as permanently affordable housing within INHS’s Community Housing Trust.

5. Housing Scholarship Program – The Learning Web, Inc. is seeking $75,600 for tenant-based rental assistance for eight low-income, transient or homeless youths and adults aged 16-24 receiving supportive services. The funds would be used to subsidize six apartment units The Learning Web leases for the program, providing housing stability and allowing those served to focus on building up their life skills and long-term self-sufficiency. The Learning Web has successfully obtained for this program in previous funding cycles.

6. Security Deposit Assistance for Vulnerable Households (2021-22) – Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga Counties is seeking $76,500 for security deposits for 65 low-income tenants. This includes five Housing for School Success participants, a support program for previously homeless families, and ten security deposits in conjunction with Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources (OAR) of Tompkins County to cover security deposits and modest rental subsidies for formerly incarcerated individuals returning home to the community and at risk of homelessness.

Economic Development

7. ReUse Job Training for Career Pathways – Finger Lakes ReUse would like $106,937, to help cover the costs of stipends, salaries and fees for training services as part of its skills and employment training program. This year would serve at least 16 low- and moderate-income adults with employment barriers (either currently unemployed, disabled, homeless, or formerly incarcerated) into permanent unsubsidized positions.

8. Work Preserve Job Training: Job Placements – A long-running program and recipient of HUD funds, Historic Ithaca is requesting $67,500, same as last year, to help place five 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, GreenStar and Challenge Workforce Solutions.

9. Hospitality Employment Training Program (HETP) – The Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) is requesting $110,000 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.

10. Ithaca is Books – If granted, the $35,000 request from Buffalo Street Books would help cover the staff salary and payroll costs for a full-time Events & Community Outreach Coordinator to expand bookstore’s “Ithaca Is Books” literary arts program to underserved communities, with the additional benefit of helping stabilize the cooperative independent bookstore.

Public Facilities

11. Great Neighbor & Essential Resource – Ithaca Community Gardens, Inc. is requesting $63,010 to cover the costs for supplies to build entry gates, install privacy fencing, add water fountains and raised beds, provide stone dust and landscaping plants to benefit at least 150 low- and moderate-income households. ICG states these LMI households consist of refugee and immigrant families, the elderly, young families, and those which rely on growing food to supplement or replace their grocery bills.

12. Urban Bus Stop Upgrade Project – TCAT is asking for $19,950 in funding  to help pay for solar lights/peripherals at bus stops currently without lighting, enhancing the safety and navigability of 13 bus stops throughout the city of Ithaca.

13. New Gym Renovation – The largest single request at $400,000, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center would use the award 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 indoor recreation space, afterschool Teen Program space, HETP classroom training space, and community use for meetings, large gatherings, and recreation tournaments. The total project cost is $2,711,580.

Public Services

14. 2-1-1 Information & Referral – Another long-time program applicant and funding recipient, the Human Services Coalition (HSC) is asking for $25,000 for its ongoing 2-1-1 information and referral call service.

15. Work Preserve Job Training: Job Readiness – In tandem with their job placement program (Item #8 above), Historic Ithaca, Inc. has filed a request for $20,000 for job readiness training for 12 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.

16. Immigrant Services Program – 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.

17. Larger Shelter and Expanded PSH (Permanent Supportive Housing) – St. John’s Community Services is requesting $100,000 towards a $3,095,200 plan to expand shelter beds, centralize service delivery and expand Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) by 60 units. More specifically, the IURA award would go towards a first-year lease payment with a hotel as they work towards its purchase (lease-to-own option), providing housing for those with poor rental history in need of a second chance.

18. A Place to Stay: Night/Weekend Support for Women in Transition – Catholic Charities is asking for $15,000 to support the staffing costs of its “A Place to Stay” program, which works to provide case management, social services and transitional housing to formerly homeless adult women. The program is targeted to very low-income adult women who are currently homeless or facing homelessness, more than half of whom are working through substance-abuse recovery.

CDBG-CV (CoronaVirus)

The last six programs are aiming to make use of the remaining $60,000 of COVID-19 relief funds allocated through the CARES Act passed by Congress last year.

19. Health & Wellness: Smoothies, Food Services, & YogaBlack Hands Universal, Inc., a social services organization specializing in providing support and resources to historically disadvantaged communities, is requesting $38,000 in funding for smoothies, food services, and free yoga classes for 1,700 homeless persons, persons suffering from substance abuse, youth, and other underserved community members to support their physical and mental health, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

20. On Call Office Subdivision – the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County is asking for $5,720 in funding for materials and labor to create a room subdivision in the on-call Advocates’ office, as a COVID-19 safety measure, to allow Advocates to return safely and increase capacity for safe in-person services to domestic/sexual violence victims during the pandemic. Advocates are staff who assist in filing orders of protection, assistance with interviews with law enforcement regarding matters of sexual violence, and crisis planning.

21. Online Market Discounts for LMI/SNAP Eligible Customers – The Ithaca Farmers’ Market is aiming for a $19,068 grant to provide for a 40% subsidy to 350 SNAP-eligible low- to moderate-income City residents shopping online to increase the affordability of fresh local foods and help support vendors dealing from COVID-19 public health requirements.

22. Partners in Health – Bright Synergy Associates has requested $20,000 in funding for participant stipends, materials, and salaries to provide 30 LMI elderly persons with health-literacy skills to empower and educate them in making informed health decisions. The money would also pay for the services of 25 professionals, serving older adults, with training Ithaca’s older community members in health-literacy strategies/skills.

23. HVAC Upgrade – St John’s Community Services is seeking $20,300 so they can upgrade the homeless shelter and Freidnship Center’s HVAC systems, providing fresh air, air-filtration, and scrubbers to help eliminate pathogens, including COVID-19.

24. Sanitation Station – The IURA is asking its citizen board for $11,000 in grant funds for rental, maintenance, and transportation of a portable public restroom to provide basic sanitation and reduce disease transmission, including COVID-19, for people experiencing homelessness and other underserved persons.

Brian Crandall

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