Ithaca has a serious housing problem, and it’s a lack-there-of kind of problem. For years, activists in Ithaca have been complaining about a growing issue of homelessness and they point to the lack of affordable housing as a starring feature of the crisis.
In February, activists hosted a panel in which they decried the issue they referred to as “ludicrous” and pointed out the dangerous nature of having people on the street in tents or collapsible homes near shopping facilities. Homelessness is especially dangerous for women who not only face harsh conditions but have a significantly higher chance of experiencing assault than their male counter-parts. It’s not only low-income people facing this crisis in Ithaca, the middle-class is facing it as well.
In early October of this year, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a grant that would go towards creating more affordable housing on Ithaca’s Hancock Street.
The grant, which would strive to create more affordable housing in a location that has a serious housing shortage would total $900,000 and was awarded to the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services Community Housing Trust. They are a local organization whose focus is on developing affordable housing. The $900,000 awarded to Tompkins County is actually part of a larger grant amount awarded to nine jurisdictions, all receiving state funding to improve affordable housing in counties that desperately need it. The total amount of state grant money totals $7.8 million and will go to the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Broome, and to the cities of Buffalo, New York, Albany, Rochester and Schenectady.
In Ithaca, the funds that were awarded to the INHS will go to building eighteen new affordable homes. The Executive Director of INHS, Johanna Sharpe hopes that this will help to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing in Tompkins County. The Mayor of Ithaca in 2009, Svante Myrick, had previously pointed out that one of the most pressing issues facing Ithaca is the displacement of middle-class and poor people due to high rents. This will help drastically address this ongoing issue.
Affordable housing means that housing is not only built but that it’s built near places of employment, near recreation facilities, near schools and hospitals. Residents need to be able to have communities and neighbors. Affordable housing makes the lives of everyone in a county better, and leads to less homelessness and less crime. Hopefully, this grant and the focus being put on affordable housing options by the state of New York will change the nature of housing throughout the entire state.