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Special Legislative Committee Continues to Tackle Housing Problem

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Special Legislative Committee Continues to Tackle Housing Problem

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Tompkins County Legislature’s special Housing Committee took a look at the critical issue of housing in our community from several different perspectives today, receiving preliminary orientation to various programs and initiative, as well as resources to assist the committee’s work.

Ithaca Board of Realtors Executive Officer Norma Jayne introduced the committee to available Realtors Property Resource data, from which reports can be produced to document housing-related data and trends. That data could assist the committee in examining the problem and where needs exist.

Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services officials briefed the committee on the INHS Community Housing Trust program, which preserves affordability of INHS-supported properties through agreements that limit the properties’ appreciation over time and, for the City and Town of Ithaca, and Ithaca City School District, tax at that limited resale value. Committee members asked whether such a program might be extended to those who exceed INHS income requirements, or to additional areas. INHS Director of Real Estate Development Joe Bowes said one factor to examine would be whether housing in such outlying areas is already affordable.

Heather McDaniel, of Tompkins County Area Development, which administers the County Industrial Development Agency, and Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency Director Nels Bohn told the committee there has been study of potential opportunities to use the IDA as a tool to promote affordable housing. A proposed City policy, currently under study, would call for a 10% set-aside of an approved project’s housing units as affordable, extending the project’s standard ten-year tax abatement to 20 years.

Tierra LaBrada, the local Continuum of Care Coordinator through the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County, identified and offered suggestions on how to address needs of those who are homeless or in danger of losing their housing. LaBrada said that a State-funded two-year Tenant Based Rental Assistance program, through Tompkins Community Action, is successfully serving 15 vulnerable families, but that the $400,000 grant has now been expended. Increased funding for support services, increased case management, and housing-related emergencies are all needed, she said, as well as transportation-related support, such as an increased number of bus passes. LaBrada said there is a crying need for a new homeless shelter, with the 12 current beds inadequate to meet the need.

As the committee reviewed a wide-ranging list of potential goals for the committee’s work ahead, County Administrator Jason Molino again advised a careful, well-planned approach, with responsibilities outlined and expectations clearly communicated. He recommended that proposals discussed to date be mapped out over the next 30 to 60 days, and that a slow and steady process will be the most effective. The affordable housing problem did not happen overnight and it will not be resolved overnight, Administrator Molino said.