Smart Growth

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Tompkins Weekly – March 22, 2010
By Carol Eichler

To address the population growth in Tompkins County we need more housing – 4,000 new housing units over the next 10 years, to be exact. Local studies show the gap between supply and demand is most critical for housing that is affordable to families of low and moderate income.

Our challenge is managing the increase in new housing in a way that addresses sustainability. Smart growth as a concept offers a viable approach. It embraces a planning model that values long-range, regional considerations – examining strategic locations for new construction, protecting natural resources and open spaces, and preserving a sense of community and place. It also recognizes that new housing should be as energy efficient as possible to assure long-term affordability.

No single type of housing can serve the varied needs of today’s diverse households. Smart growth represents an opportunity for communities to increase housing choices by integrating single- and multi-family structures that support a diverse population and households of all income levels.

Providing a range of housing choices allow all households to find their niche in a smart growth community – whether it is a rental complex, single-family home with an accessory apartment, owner-occupied condominium townhouse, or a traditional suburban home – and accommodate growth at the same time.

We are fortunate that our community has adopted smart growth strategies and is providing incentives to encourage new housing – especially the need for affordable housing. Through a joint effort of Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca and Cornell University, a Community Housing Affordability Program and Community Housing Trust Program – collectively known as the Housing Fund – have been implemented to help communities and organizations throughout Tompkins County respond to the diverse affordable housing needs of its residents. Through an application process, the Housing Fund will be awarding its first 0%-interest loans to developers from both for-profit and non-profit developers to assist them with pre-development costs associated with residential and mixed-use real estate development projects. A Community Housing Trust has also been launched, administered by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services.

The Trust, yet another smart growth a tool,, is a form of shared equity housing creating a unique partnership between the Trust and the homeowner. The new Community Housing Trust in our County helps reduce the initial purchase price for a home while helping keep the home affordable for future buyers. INHS is committed to building and selling new homes throughout Tompkins County through the Community Housing Trust, thus building a portfolio of permanently affordable homes that will serve the immediate and long-term future housing needs.

Our community has embraced Smart Growth concepts to ensure a vibrant and thriving future for generations to come.

Carol Eichler is Director of Community Relations at Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services.

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