ITHACA, N.Y. — Somewhat like Christmas, the battle for the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s federal funding pool comes but once a year.
The City of Ithaca has been awarded state and federal grants, and officials must now decide how to disburse them in a way that benefits the community the most. To assist with that, the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA) will be holding public hearings on Feb. 23 and March 1, as part of the process to determine who will receive money from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dollars earmarked for Ithaca.
The Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Program (CDBG) and the Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) make up the funding for the yearly grants. The requests are designed to help people, or more specifically to fund organizations in the community that help people in the low- and moderate-income category. The highest amount of funding is typically requested for housing-related projects.
Added together, there is $1,795,557 in total requests, and $1,394,000 available for the city’s use—or $1,227,400 when the $166,600 to operate the IURA is deducted. While not as competitive as previous years, there is still far more being requested than is available. The applicant’s track record, the likelihood of success, how much “bang for the buck” a project provides to the Ithaca community, and the applicant’s ability to answer IURA staff and Economic Development Committee questions can make the difference between full funding, partial funding, or none at all.
The amount available has typically been around $1.1-$1.2 million, though this year is a tad higher because there were awarded funds that went unused which rolled over from last year. The requested amount this year is also a little lower than in the past few years. For comparison’s sake, last year there were $1.95 million in requested funds, $2.03 million in 2022, $1.74 million in 2021, and 2020 saw $2.26 million in funds sought.
This year, 22 applications were received, a typical amount from year-to-year. The intended uses for the grant dollars range from job training to community services to the development of affordable housing. Below is a summary of the applicants using their information submitted, with links to each application at the start of the entry.
The Beacon: Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services has requested $199,990 for architectural and engineering fees for the construction of a new $25.7 million apartment building with 55 affordable housing units on Inlet Island. “The Beacon” would be targeted at households between 30% to 100% Area Median Income (AMI), including nine households for people exiting homelessness with a member impacted by a substance use disorder.
The Beacon is a repeat from 2023, when INHS requested the same amount. Everything was delayed last year and the awarded funds were never used. This submission is a re-request with an updated budget and schedule.
“The project has been unavoidably delayed by the need for the City/IURA and DEC to resolve underlying site control issues,” wrote Lynn Truame, the director of real estate development for INHS. “We anticipate resolution of the DEC issues later this year, but not in time for us to submit a 2024 funding application to NYS HCR as previously hoped.”
2. 113-115 Cleveland Avenue: Here, INHS is requesting $120,000 to help cover construction costs on two owner-occupied lower-middle income (80% area median income) homes at the site of a two-family Southside home that was destroyed by fire last August. The homes would be incorporated into the Community Housing Trust, which allows the home value (and resale price) to go up only 2% per year for 99 years, in exchange for limits on property tax assessment.
3. Housing Scholarship Program: The Learning Web, Inc. is seeking $84,060 in grant funds for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) funding toward rent and utilities for five unaccompanied LMI homeless youth, residing in supported apartments across the city and maintaining stable housing while learning skills and behaviors to develop self-sufficiency. The Learning Web has successfully obtained funding for this program in previous IURA funding cycles.
4. Small Repair Program: A long-running program and a frequent recipient of IURA funds, INHS is requesting $40,000 to fund small emergency repairs for 40 lower-income people with disabilities, seniors, single heads of households and other city homeowners. Examples of projects under this program are wheelchair ramps, handicap-accessible showers, railing installations and minor plumbing and electrical repairs (i.e. the pipe is not spewing into the basement, but the kitchen sink is leaking).
5. Security Deposit Assistance for Vulnerable Households (2024–25): Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga Counties is asking for $95,628 to go toward security deposits for 78 LMI households, such as the elderly, disabled and single parents, to access safe and stable housing and avoid homelessness. This includes five deposits for homeless families with children in Housing for School Success program. Last year, the the request was $37,500 for 25 households, but the five Housing for School Success service portion remains the same.
6. The Meadow on Seneca: Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. is requesting $125,000 to help construct 70 units of mixed-income affordable housing with integrated supportive services for households below 50% AMI and up to 80% AMI. The Meadow on Seneca appears to the moniker they’ve given to 116 North Meadow Street, which is in the home stretch of Planning Board review.
While $125,000 is a drop in the bucket towards the project’s $34 million cost, it serves the additional purpose of demonstrating local support for the project, an important asset when applying for high-value state housing grants.
7. Career and Resources Program: Black Hands Universal is requesting $20,000 in funding to train and graduate 15-20 people in standard work skills and certifications, and place 10-15 people in permanent employment. Eighty percent of participants are
anticipated to be in low to very low LMI households. The funding covers materials, certification fees, and a portion of the payroll.
8. Expanded ReUse Training Opportunities: Finger Lakes ReUse, a long-time applicant and recipient of job training funds, is asking for $137,483 in funding for staff wages/benefits and participant stipends to provide job-training opportunities for LMI populations (including people who are unemployed, formerly incarcerated, persons with disabilities, individuals in recovery, and youth), and place at least 20 of these individuals into permanent unsubsidized employment.
Last year, they were given a partial award of $78,595; they had 32 applications, 16 people started the training, and eight completed the six-month, 525-hour training and found permanent gainful employment.
9. Hospitality Employment Training Program (HETP): The Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) is requesting $38,000, $32,000 less than last year, for its Hospitality Employment Training Program (HETP), which will provide hospitality, office and administrative job training, and readiness for 10 individuals, with job placement for seven participants. Last year, it was 20 and 14 respectively, so it’s a smaller-scale program than in previous years.
10. Work Preserve Job Training: Job Placements: A long-running program and recipient of HUD funds, Historic Ithaca is requesting $67,500, the same amount as requested during the past few years, to help place six low to moderate-income individuals in permanent employment. This includes intensive one-on-one training on goal setting, project management and execution, resume writing, interviewing, and a transition from Historic Ithaca’s store to a new employer. Previous transition employers include Agway, GreenStar and Challenge Workforce Solutions.
11. 200 Cecil A. Malone Dr. Pedestrian Improvements: The City of Ithaca’s Sidewalk Program is asking for $181,640 to cover most of the construction and design costs for a shovel-ready project on Cecil A. Malone Drive that would install ADA curb ramps, curbing, new sidewalks and crosswalks, benefiting pedestrians and persons needing ADA accessible walkways.
12. DICC ADA Upgrades and Modifications: The Drop-In Center, also known as the Downtown Ithaca Childcare Center (DICC), is requesting $101,375 for ADA Upgrades/Modifications to the DICC Building and Grounds. Funds will go directly to the materials necessary to install automatic handicapped-accessible doors into and within the center, aid in creating a more inclusive playground for everyone, and improve access to storage within the center for children and staff of all abilities.
13. Red & White Cafe: GIAC has a second application in for review this year, requesting $200,000 to cover some of the cost of professional services and some construction costs, particularly interior demolition, in order to renovate the iconic Red & White Cafe to become a teen-run micro-entrepreneurship business and culinary arts program “and protect the history/integrity of the neighborhood.”
14. 2-1-1 Information & Referral Helpline with Housing Navigation: The Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County is requesting $27,500 to cover staff salaries and fringe benefits to provide sufficient contact center coverage to meet community needs and for enhanced housing navigation services, benefiting at least 3,500 LMI persons. In previous years, 2-1-1 was just standard referral and informational services, but in the past couple of years they have expanded to provide “Housing Navigation” to help lower-income households in finding housing in the Ithaca area.
15. A Place to Stay: Support for Homeless Women: Catholic Charities is requesting $15,000 in grant monies toward case-management evening and weekend staffing costs to support 10 LMI adult women who are homeless or facing homelessness, and more than half of whom will be working through substance abuse recovery as they transition to independent living. In its six years, A Place to Stay (APTS) has housed dozens of homeless women through 68 stays, most of whom transitioned to private housing with voucher assistance or public housing, and Catholic Charities says that most of the graduates have remained successful thus far and have not faced another homeless period.
16. Housing Scholarships Personnel Support: The Learning Web’s other application for this year seeks $32,871 to cover a portion of the costs related to case management, mental health counseling, and administrative oversight needed to support participants and manage the Housing Scholarship Program (Application #3 above).
17. Immigrant Services Program: Catholic Charities is aiming for a $40,000 grant to help cover the costs of its support services for immigrants and refugees looking to begin another chapter of their lives in Ithaca. The program funds would support 120 individuals as Catholic Charities seeks to help place them in homes, jobs and support their efforts to integrate into the community. This is the same amount and service goal as last year, and the program is another long-term successful operation that has received IURA support over the years.
18. Work Preserve Job Training: Job Readiness: In tandem with its job placement program (item #10 above), Historic Ithaca has filed a request for $20,000 for job readiness training for 10 low- to moderate-income community members. Training takes place at Historic Ithaca’s Significant Elements architectural salvage store at 212 Center St., where participants build their professional skills in retail and customer service, warehousing, online sales, facility maintenance and furniture repair.
19. Security Deposit Assistance Intensive Staffing: Catholic Charities is vying for $6,000 in funds to pay for staff time to support high-need security deposit applicants with assistance in navigating services and finding rental units. Funds will target helping formerly/currently homeless individuals, particularly homeless families with elementary students in the Beverly J. Martin Housing for School Success program.
20. Community Bike Shop: Bike Walk Tompkins is asking for $30,000 in funding for staff salaries for open shop hours at its shop at 803 W. Cascadilla Street, workshops, pop-up events, staff training, bike repair supplies, and to subsidize the cost of goods to participants, like bicycles, parts in need of repair, and safety equipment.
21. Collaborative Street Outreach Program: OAR of Tompkins County is requesting $22,000 for staff salaries and client needs/expenses to support at-risk individuals, such as the homeless, formerly incarcerated, and vulnerable youth, in accessing services and support systems. Staff go into areas like “the Jungle” to provide food and basic goods, and build trust with individuals in need, hoping to provide them with support services or housing options when they’re ready to take that step.
22. AFJ Youth Empowerment Project: Alliance of Families for Justice provides support, empowerment, and advocacy-based mobilization to families of incarcerated loved ones and formerly incarcerated individuals in the city of Ithaca. The organization is seeking $25,000 to help cover the costs of fellowship stipends, staff salaries/benefits, and office supplies as they expand counseling services and wellness programs for directly impacted youth who may be mentally and emotionally struggling to cope with the impact of an incarcerated family member.