Ithaca, N.Y. — A $2 million grant from the federal government will help Ithaca officials fight the area’s notorious affordable housing crunch, according to Paul Mazzarella, executive director of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services.

Paul Mazzarella
Paul Mazzarella

The grant — awarded by the US Treasury Department last month — will allow the city to make loans to those who are either hoping to buy homes or to help existing homeowners, Mazzarella said in an interview on Tuesday.

INHS had an approximately $12.5 million fund for these efforts but all that money had been tied up in existing loans. (This money is separate from the $136,214 announced this week by two US Senators for the Ithaca Housing Authority.)

“The $2 million in new money is going to be a real boost to our efforts,” Mazzarella said.

Here are 3 other takeaways about the new grant:

1 — Stiff competition

The $2 million is the maximum award given through the federal government program. Mazzarella said there were about 1,200 other similar applications.

“It’s a recognition that Tompkins County has a real housing affordability problem,” Mazzarella said. “It’s a severe problem that needs to be addressed through a lot of different things.”

2 — How many people will benefit?

With the $2 million, the city will probably make more than 100 loans, according to Mazzarella.

The money will be paired with a new website and new marketing program to encourage an array of people to seek loans through the INHS program.

3 — Long-term investment

Mazzarella said the “delinquency rate” for loans underwritten by INHS is on par with those of the “best banks.”

In other words, most people pay their money back to INHS.

“The good thing is that the money becomes a revolving loan fund,” Mazzarella said, “so as loans are made and repaid we loan it out again … that’s been a critical part of our program over a number of year.”

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.