TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — At 28 Crystal Drive in Dryden, a small house is being renovated for a client of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services. When complete, generations of families will benefit from the low-cost of the home. It’s an example of one local affordable housing project that has benefited from the Community Housing Development Fund, now in its 10th year.

Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca and Cornell University together have put nearly $4 million toward affordable housing projects through the CHDF. Though a significant investment, there is always an unmet need for more resources. On Friday, Cornell University announced it is committing an extra one-time amount of $200,000 to help with the demand.

“The Community Housing Fund has become a staple in providing funding to support affordable housing within the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County,” INHS Executive Director Johanna Anderson said Friday. “The impact of this partnership is insurmountable, providing much-needed funding to expand access to affordable housing to those who need it most. In a region experiencing a housing crisis, this is exactly the type of support we need to combat this issue.”

Every year, the county and City of Ithaca contribute $100,000 each to the Community Housing Development Fund, while Cornell contributes $200,000. The fund is used to help reduce development costs for new construction for housing that remains affordable for low- and moderate-income households.

28 Crystal Drive in Dryden. (Photo courtesy of Megan McDonald)

On Friday, the normally quiet Crystal Drive in Dryden was lined with cars as city, county and university officials celebrated 10 years of the CHDF and the announcement of the additional funds at 28 Crystal Drive, where a home is being renovated for a client of Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services. The home is on land that will be held by INHS in its Community Housing Trust. Through the arrangement, INHS retains the land and the buyer will purchase the home, which will ensure the home remains affordable not just for this family, but for future generations of homebuyers.

Since the fund was initiated, INHS has received more than $2.1 million that amount has leveraged over $100 million in additional funding from New York State, private investors and financial institutions, Anderson said. That funding has gone toward the development and preservation of for-sale and rental housing in Tompkins County.

“To put that in perspective, it has resulted in an additional 259 rental units and 46 for-sale homes that have been put into INHS’ Community Housing Trust that provides permanently affordable housing for first-time homebuyers,” Anderson said.

Quoting a well-known line, “it takes a village,” Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson, who also oversees the oversight committee of the CHDF, said it takes many partners to make affordable housing possible. Robertson said as a result of the Community Housing Development Fund, 491 units of affordable housing have been constructed or rehabilitated. The three partners have provided nearly $4 million over 10 years and leveraged about $114 million in outside funding.

New residential construction permits hit an all-time high last year, as noted in a recent Ithaca Voice report. Still, Robertson said less than 20% of those were for single-family homes, which shows that homeownership opportunities are still lagging locally.

• Read the report: Tompkins County posts highest-ever total for new home construction

Standing outside the front door of 28 Crystal Drive, Robertson said Friday they are celebrating a place that will benefit multiple families.

“This home will make a difference where people will be able to live, grow and thrive,” she said.

CHDF Funding by Kelsey O’Connor on Scribd

There is more demand for funds from the CHDF than is available. At a discussion during the county’s Housing and Economic Development Committee in June, Megan McDonald, deputy commissioner of planning and sustainability, conservatively estimated about 15 projects applying for funds in the next few years for funding totaling about $2.5 million, much more than the $1.2 million in the fund.

The extra funding Cornell is providing will help fill some of the unmet demand. Cornell is providing the one-time $200,000 on top of the annual contribution of $200,000.

Joel Malina, vice president of Cornell University, said Friday that the university is also committing to extending its annual contribution for another six years after the current contract expires.

“We are also grateful for Cornell’s longstanding partnership with Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, going back to its start-up in 1977, and its straightforward, powerful mission: To revitalize neighborhoods in and around Tompkins County, encouraging stability and diversity, and to assist low to moderate-income people in obtaining quality housing on a long-term basis,” Malina said.

Clarification (5:30 p.m. Monday) — An earlier version of this article stated 50 projects were expected to apply for funding in the next few years, based on past agenda notes. However, McDonald clarified the number is likely closer to 15.

Featured image courtesy of Megan McDonald

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.