- Ithaca is facing a housing affordability crisis, in which home values continue to rise while median household incomes have remained stagnant, pushing many low-income families and individuals out of their homes
- Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services recently headed a development plan for mixed-affordability housing in Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood
- The development at 210 Hancock Street will feature 54 mixed-income rental units in a four-story building, as well as 12 townhouses for sale
Linda Holzbaur attends monthly meetings with her neighbors as a part of Northside United, a community group organized to give Northside residents a voice in city planning. Ithaca’s housing affordability crisis has been a common theme at recent meetings.
Holzbaur, as a founding member of Northside United, said she and the rest of the community have been in close contact with Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, as well as members of the city’s common council. She said many factors have contributed to the changing face of the Northside neighborhood.
“Northside has pretty traditionally been one of the neighborhoods where the housing values have been a little bit lower, and we’ve noticed that that’s been changing a lot lately,” she said. “The prices are going through the roof … the assessment on your house goes up, and your taxes are based on that.”
Holzbaur said her taxes skyrocketed in recent years due to the dramatic upswing in property values in Ithaca. As someone with an income that won’t be increasing anytime soon, she said, the disproportionate rise is quickly becoming difficult to manage.
“Other people, whose houses didn’t start out so low, are now having a hard time making it,” she said. “People are concerned that they will be priced out of the neighborhood and really have nowhere to go.”
Naming the Issues
Seph Murtagh, alderman of Ithaca’s Second Ward, said the main issues at play when it comes to affordable housing in the city stem from the lack of available housing in general.
“There’s a huge demand for housing downtown,” he said. “The problem of course is that we have a really low vacancy rate in the city.”
Gentrification has been a large problem facing the city in recent years. Murtagh said because of the rapid increase in college students looking to rent downtown, property values have been pushed up and many low-income individuals have been forced to find housing in the Town of Ithaca, or even surrounding municipalities.
New Development Addresses Core Problems
Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services recently headed the development of a new mixed-income housing complex on 210 Hancock Street. INHS, as a private developing firm, works with the community to provide access to low-income rentals and homes.
Murtagh, who has been working with Northside United throughout the planning process, said the new development will feature three types of affordable housing units: those available to income groups making less than 30 percent of median household income; those making less than 50 percent; and those making less than 90 percent of median income — which currently stands at just $30,138.
“210 Hancock fulfills two needs,” he said. “One is for affordable housing for seniors … and it also fulfills the need for younger workers, particularly those who are earning below or just at a living wage.”
Scott Reynolds, director of real estate development at INHS, said the development on 210 Hancock Street will be a larger and more unique undertaking than previous housing projects. The core values, however, remain the same.
“It is the redevelopment of an entire block at once, which is not something that happens in the City of Ithaca very often,” Reynolds said. “It’s the scope of the project that makes it unusual … the housing itself is similar to other housing we’ve developed elsewhere.”
Reynolds said INHS and the city’s common council have conducted a comprehensive public outreach process. At these meetings, the plan drew nearly unanimous support from members of Northside United. However, there has also been a fair share of opposition from those concerned about construction noise, as well as perceived issues associated with neighborhood character, he said.
“There was a lot of public input into the final design,” he said. “There are always people who will be unhappy about it … but people are recognizing both at the city government level and elsewhere that affordable housing is becoming a crisis in Ithaca.”
Now that demolition is nearing completion, redevelopment of the Northside site is set to begin in the coming weeks.