$20 million affordable housing project on Ithaca’s Northside opens

Ithaca Journal
by Sarah Mearhoff
November 29, 2017

Local and state officials braced the gusting winds and chilly temperatures for the grand opening of the mixed-use affordable housing development on Ithaca’s Northside Wednesday morning.

“Today we’re standing here a little bit cold, but there are families that will no longer be cold because they have an affordable place to live,” said Miriam Zinter, a mortgage officer at the Community Preservation Corporation, an affordable housing and urban revitalization nonprofit.

Where there once stood an abandoned grocery store, office space and parking lot now stands a green-certified, 59-unit housing project with 54 mixed-income rental apartments and five townhouses. In its commercial space, the building at 210 Hancock Street also houses an Early Head Start program and the Free Science Workshop.

Located less than a mile from the Ithaca Commons, residents can easily walk downtown or to the Farmer’s Market, and have access to parking, a community room and laundry facilities.

“How many times have we walked past something and thought, ‘Somebody ought to do something about that?’” Zinter asked Wednesday’s crowd. “[Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services] realized that we are all somebody.”

The Hancock Street project was funded by a combination of public and private investments. From New York State, the project received over $1.5 million in low income housing tax credits, which are estimated to generate over $13.3 million in equity, plus an additional $2.5 million from Middle Income Housing Program and Community Investment Fund dollars.

To establish a housing project like that at 210 Hancock required public intervention, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick said at the event.

“The high cost of housing is a political problem,” he said to the crowd on Wednesday. “It was created through political means and it will only be solved through political means.”

He continued, “This is not a fight that we undertake because it’s going to make us popular…. This is something you do because it’s right.”

The project also received over $10 million in loans from the Community Preservation Corporation, $516,000 from a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant, and over $700,000 from the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County, combined.

“This expansive development will improve the quality of life for residents in Ithaca for years to come,” Governor Cuomo said in the New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal‘s news release. “Combining neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing, and early childhood education is a great achievement and a win for the Southern Tier.”

The project is just one of several in New York’s Southern Tier Soaring initiative, which has already invested over $4.6 billion in the region in the past five years in an effort to capture and retain businesses and residents to encourage a healthier economy.