$400,000 More For Rental Assistance, And Other Tompkins Housing News

Categories Housing & Development, Ithaca

Tompkins County Action will have $400,000 more in funds to give out in rental assistance over the next two years.

The funding will provide up to 15 people per year with rental assistance starting in June 2017, allowing the tenants to pay only 30 percent of their income for rent. Danielle Harrington, housing services director at TCAction, explained to service providers at the Tompkins County Continuum of Care meeting last week that the funding will also provide for some staff assistance for renters. The idea of the grant will be to help people with their rent as they are waiting to get on the Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher waiting list.

Right now, the waiting list to get federally funded vouchers is about a year long in Tompkins County, Harrington said.

The grant is an “obscure” one from New York State’s Office of Homes and Community Renewal, TCAction director Lee Dillon said, with funding that originally comes from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD].

The Continuum of Care also voted on “minimum housing standards,” a document to be used as a guideline for housing providers, though without any enforcement provision.

The minimum standards are no stronger than state law, and ask for a:

  • Clean dwelling that is free of mold and mildew, garbage.
  • Extermination of vermin (e.g. roaches, bed bugs, and rodents), including in common areas
  • Adequate hot, cold, and potable drinking water.
  • Adequate heat in all living areas.
  • Doors with adequate workign locks
  • Functioning smoke & CO detectors.
  • Exterior walls, doors, and windows that are intact and reasonably insulated.
  • Exterior windows and doors that can be opened and closed.
  • Access to a clean and functional refrigerator, stove, and toilet.
  • For households with children aged 6 or under, no chipping or peeling paint in the unit or common areas; and if there is any lead paint, full disclosure is necessary.

An earlier version of the standards, circulated in late February, stated that “people who are otherwise qualified to receive housing assistance should not be disqualified for declining to move into housing that does not meet” the standards, but that language was struck in the final version for reasons that are unclear.

Another statement that didn’t make the final statement was the following language:

“Many municipalities are unable to regularly inspect rental housing so there is no assurance that units meet state code. However, even without a recent inspection report from a Code Enforcement Officer, it is clear that some conditions are not consistent with safe and healthy housing.”

Karen Baer, of the county Office of Human Rights, reported to the Continuum of Care that at a recent retreat of Tompkins County department heads, “the quality of housing rose to the top” of pressing issues.

“They’re even talking about doing code enforcement,” Baer noted.

A Quick Promotional Break

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This reporter took a walk this morning around the 210 Hancock Street project. Construction is well-underway, and it is my understanding that there’s a wait list for the apartments – which will cost anywhere from $300 a month for a single person at the lowest income level to $1,600 per month for the highest income allowed in the three-bedroom townhomes. Here’s a few photos, including the featured shot above:

If you’re on a waitlist for a housing voucher, are having problems with inadequate or unsafe housing, or are otherwise struggling as a renter in Tompkins County, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org. TruthSayers wants to tell your story, and we can do it in a way that feels safe for you.

Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.

Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with tips, story suggestions, and gentle criticism.

Twitter: @jdbrokaw