By Staci Rogers
Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins & Cortland Counties will be breaking ground on its first builds in the City of Ithaca with two owner-occupied units within a single duplex.
The two-story homes will each be approximately 1,400 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms each. We are excited to be building in Ithaca City for the first time in our 30 years as an affiliate. We’ve had significant county level support from a Community Development Fund grant (a joint effort of Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca), and a Housing and Urban Development Entitlement Grant administered through Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency.
The 3rd Street builds are a great opportunity to build in a place with significant need for affordable housing. We are pleased to have a downtown project, and to be able to coordinate our project within the county’s Comprehensive Plan. We were able to fit two homes on the small lot in a walkable neighborhood. The response to this project has been overwhelmingly positive from individuals in the community to county level. Our annual Women Builds event that was held on Mother’s Day weekend was the highest attendance in six years. Women of all skill levels came together to construct the wall panels for the new homes.
At this point, we’ve broken ground, and we have received great support from local trades people to clear the land, and prepare for the foundation. Earlier in the spring, Ithaca College students and Cornell students each held events on their campus to build the roof trusses. It’s been a long tradition for the local colleges to participate in TCHabitat builds. Fun fact: Ithaca College was the first Habitat Student Chapter in New York state.
We are fortunate to have two incredible families for our first Ithaca builds. They both have been in Ithaca for many years, and have been actively involved with the community. The Maataoui Family completed a homebuyer education course and began a matched savings program to save money for closing costs before they applied to Habitat. The Exantus Family previously applied to Habitat, but we weren’t building in the city at the time. Coincidentally, both families work for the Ithaca City School District, and are committed to staying in Ithaca. These families are fiercely motivated, and have already overcome tremendous odds, but the current housing stock has been out of reach for them.
Our model is unique in that we partner with families so they can pay an affordable mortgage for a modest home. They commit volunteer hours during the build process, and attend financial counseling prior to closing. Being in an affordable home allows people enough flexibility to make better choices concerning nutrition, health, education, and personal development.
Our small affiliate doesn’t expect to completely fulfill the affordable housing needs of Tompkins County, (that would be awesome), but while we have building opportunities in Ithaca, we can involve the community in hands on experience with affordable housing. Our community volunteers have the opportunity to get to know the unique and inspiring stories of people you see everyday, and participate in affordability issues that affect everyone.
One of the major pillars of Habitat is garnering the support of the community to build homes. We depend on the time and talents of businesses, trades people, and individuals to help families in their communities make better lives for themselves by being in safe and affordable housing. For TChabitat, sustainability means investing in inclusive communities to create quality affordable homes for everyone.
Another TCHabitat project has been proposed for the 400 block of Cayuga Street, which is up for consideration before the city. We hope to fit 2-4 homes on this lot. To learn more about our affiliate, please visit tchabitat.com.
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This is the latest installment of the Signs of Sustainability series produced by Sustainable Tompkins. To learn more about the organization, visit its website at SustainableTompkins.org. Rogers is a development associate for Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins & Cortland Counties.
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