ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) has an eye towards future housing proposals, and an ear to hear your thoughts.

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The non-profit housing developer is looking to build replacement housing for properties it owns at 203 and 207-209 Elm Street, at the base of West Hill. The Elm Street properties have been under INHS ownership since the mid-1980s, and INHS also has a purchase option on a single-family home at 205 Elm Street. Plans for the new housing were announced on last week, advertising an open house for West Hill residents.

According to the INHS flyer, the meeting will be held at Lehman Alternative Community School from 6:30 to 8 PM on Tuesday April 19th. As an open house format, people are free to come and go as they please.


While some concerns have been expressed over the concentration of lower-income housing on West Hill, INHS Senior Developer Joseph Bowes says that the project isn’t so much new housing, as it is a replacement for existing affordable housing.

“203 [Elm Street] has had serious structural issues for the past five years. 203 is settling too much, and we decided it wasn’t safe to rent [it out]. It would also be very expensive to fix, we could build a much higher quality new building for the same amount of money,” said Bowes.

Settling is the natural changes that occur to a building’s foundation with time and weather. If you’ve ever been in an old house with slightly uneven floors, chances are it’s the result of years of settling. However, if it becomes excessive, whether due to excessive moisture, drought, or slope conditions, then the foundation and walls can be seriously damaged and threaten the stability of the building.

Bowes said that while 203 Elm has major structural issues, 207-209 is still habitable, though settling has taken its toll there as well. “207-209 is a property that wasn’t in good shape when we purchased it, but we’ve done the best we could. We’ve had an architect and engineer go through all the properties, and we’ve determined the best course of action would be to demolish and rebuild high quality housing.”


Counting 205, the three properties comprise 14 units of housing. The replacement structure would be 10,000 SF and 12 units, all 1-bedroom units. The design above is one of the potential designs that will be shown at the open house. “It’s walkable to downtown, there’s a bus stop right up the hill there. It’s in walking distance to Inlet Island and Greenstar,” said Bowes.


After recent and often heated debates created by the Stone Quarry and 210 Hancock affordable housing plans, Bowes is cautiously optimistic that this Elm Street discussion will be less controversial. The open house is being touted as a way to engage the community and get their input on the project and its design. “We’re hoping that the fact that we’re replacing units that are in poor condition with brand new units, as opposed to creating more units, we hope people will see that as a benefit to the neighborhood. It will look a lot nicer when it’s done, and it won’t need [zoning] variances. It’s a less than 1:1 replacement, we hope people will see that as a positive.”

“We want to let the public know that there’s a project in the works, we want neighbors’ input on design, and we want to make adjustments based on what we hear. We want to make a project that people think will be an asset in the neighborhood.”

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