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Housing Committee Hears Housing Strategy Update

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Housing Committee Hears Housing Strategy Update

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Legislature’s special Housing Committee today received a status report on residential development in Tompkins County, and where things stand since the County’s Housing Strategy was adopted by the Legislature nearly a year ago. 

Presenting mapping and data prepared by the County’s Department of Assessment, Deputy Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability Megan McDonald told Legislators that as of March 1st of this year, 957 new residential structures have been built in the county since 2010, containing approximately 2,400 units—construction at a rate of approximately 220 units per year.  Forty additional projects, containing nearly 6,500 units (nearly two-thirds located in the City of Ithaca), also are identified as either proposed, under review, or in some stage of preparation or construction. 

The Housing Strategy, adopted by the Legislature last July, sets a target of construction of 580 workforce housing units per year (including 200 new rental units and 380 new ownership units per year), to produce a total of 5,800 new units by 2025, many of them located in the county’s nodal Development Focus Areas.  The mapping initiative is part of implementation of one of the Strategy’s approaches—to support targeted new development of new housing units, creating a comprehensive list of housing opportunity development sites.

Following up last month’s discussion of condominium development, the Committee also heard a presentation from Adam Bronfin, who evaluated the local lack of condominiums as his Cornell Urban and Regional Studies senior honors thesis.  Bronfin’s research, based on nearly 40 interviews with those including developers, government officials, real estate brokers, financiers, and attorneys, found that demand for condominiums exists, but that barriers to such development includes the tedious offering plan required by New York State; the lack of tax incentives and abatements; little familiarity with condominium development on the part of developers; the area’s anti-development reputation; and difficulty in obtaining construction financing.  Noting that the report has been “a tremendous help to us,” Chair Martha Robertson indicated that it suggests some potential areas of focus that could be pursued to address obstacles identified.

The Committee, without dissent, also recommended support by the full Legislature of proposed home rule legislation introduced by Senator Tom O’Mara to amend the section of New York State County Law to permit Tompkins County use local funds and contract with other entities to develop, maintain and manage affordable housing.  That action would follow up an earlier request by the Legislature for sponsorship of such State legislation.