Here’s are the basics of what’s happening:

  • The Tompkins County Legislature voted last Tuesday to sell a vacant, foreclosed lot in Freeville to Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS).
  • The 1.72 acre parcel is located on Cook Street.
  • The land will be sold for $7,320, below its assessed value of $25,000.
  • The county’s intent is to let INHS develop affordable housing on the site.

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Bus To Nature: Route 22

So why is INHS developing land in Freeville? How did the county get this land to begin with?

Although outside of INHS’s normal working area of Ithaca city and town, the non-profit housing developer assumed affordable housing services for the whole county when it merged with its rural equivalent, Better Housing for Tompkins County (BHTC), last December.

Tompkins County acquired the property in June 2014. The previous owner of the land was a dubious California-based LLC that specializes in the auction of foreclosed land. That company, NRLL East LLC, had purchased the land in 2008, but failed to keep up on taxes. A quick search shows they’ve also failed to pay taxes in other counties.

When the county acquired the land last year, its Government Operations Committee recommended withholding the land from auction to pursue the possibility of developing affordable housing on the site. The county Planning Department, with the consent of the Village of Freeville government, asked INHS if they would be interested, and a purchase offer was arranged.

With an offer in place, the county legislature voted unanimously to sell the property to INHS for $7,320, which covers the back taxes plus maintenance costs. Legislator Carol Chock (D-Ithaca) abstained from voting due to family connections to INHS, and Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera (D-Ithaca) was absent from the meeting.

In an email to the Ithaca Voice, INHS Executive Director Paul Mazzarella provided the following statement:

“It’s become very evident that housing is a regional issue that needs to be be addressed by many communities.  The Cook Street site in Freeville presents an excellent opportunity to develop more affordable housing units is a place that clearly needs them. We don’t yet have a plan for this site, but we’re very appreciative that Tompkins County made it available to us.  We will strive to create new housing that meets the needs of Freeville residents.”

So what’s going to be built?

While there are no firm plans have been made at this early stage, the parcel, if built to the same density as the neighboring Lehigh Crossing senior apartments next door, would yield about 18 units of housing. Whether it becomes owner-occupied housing or apartment rentals has yet to be determined.

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at