Affordable housing in Ithaca hinges on location, location, location

Jul 3, 2015

Ithaca wants more people to live within the city limits. With that goal in mind, a new comprehensive plan passed the planning board Tuesday and will soon move to the Common Council.

But attracting more residents won’t be easy. More than anything, Ithaca needs affordable housing -- and that starts with a location.

City Planning Director JoAnn Cornish says the city has targeted certain spots around Ithaca where they feel that housing can go, like the West State Street Corridor.

“There’s a lot of underutilized sites on West State Street,” she said as an example. “So we do think that some of those could be used for housing projects.”

But bringing new housing to a neighborhood can cause a stir. A proposed development that would bring affordable housing to Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood has faced considerable public backlash. As the city reviews other projects like these, Cornish says she’s ready for more pushback.

“Anytime people have a change in what they know, there’s a real concern that it’s going to impact them negatively,” she said. “It’s up to the planning board [and] the Common Council to balance the needs of the community against the concerns of the neighbors.

Common concerns include fears of increased traffic and of harmful effects on neighborhood character.

If the city can get this plan through, officials think Ithaca will be more attractive for retailers and that fewer people will have to commute in for work. 

Public hearings begin once the plan gets through a Common Council committee.