ITHACA, NY – A plan set in motion earlier this year to help address the affordable housing crisis in Tompkins County cleared one of its barriers today, as Ithaca Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton’s bill was signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The purpose of this bill was to allow Tompkins County to grant tax exemptions on affordable housing that is regulated to remain affordable.

What set this plan in motion is that affordable homes developed by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services as part of their Community Housing Trust came with a restriction capping their resale value, but it did not lower their property tax burden. As the demand for housing continued to drive property values up, many families living in affordable homes found the tax burden unsustainable, even though they could never sell the house for its full value.

Since the county assessor did not have the power to grant these exemptions, a law at the state level had to be passed before the county could move forward.

The newly passed state law allows for the county — and any municipality within the county, including school districts, at their option — to grant a partial real property tax exemption for affordable housing that has a regulatory agreement restricting the purchase of the property to those who qualify for affordable housing.

“I’m grateful to the Tompkins County Legislature and Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services for alerting me to this problem and I’m very pleased that this legislation has been signed into law. I’m hopeful that it will be an important tool in helping to address the under-supply of affordable housing in our county,” said Lifton in a press release. “This will help to ensure that families living in affordable housing can continue to afford the property taxes and that those homes remain in the stock of affordable housing in Tompkins County as they are sold.”

The county will need to hold a public hearing and then pass a local law to enact the change.


Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.