Late on Friday, August 30, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed S.6340/A.8225 into law, allowing Tompkins County to use local resources on the "development, maintenance or management of affordable housing."
“We’ve been working on this for almost two years, since we learned that state law was unclear about counties’ authority to use their own funds to support affordable housing,” explained Martha Robertson, chair of the Tompkins County Legislature. “We’re delighted that the Governor has signed the bill, especially as we begin our budget deliberations for 2020.”
Without the new legislation, any resources spent on affordable housing had to originate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Over the years, Tompkins County has used HUD money to support the development and rehabilitation of permanently affordable housing units, and to provide financial support for first-time homebuyers. However, federal housing funding has steadily declined and Tompkins County wanted to have additional tools to use. The county legislature unanimously passed resolutions asking the state for this authority, in 2018 and again in 2019.
Robertson credited the county’s representatives in Albany for their advocacy. “We could not have gotten this bill through the state legislature without the diligent work of Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and Jordan Lesser in her office. Senator Tom O’Mara and his legislative director Brian Alapatt were critical supports as well.”
Assemblywoman Lifton said, “At the request of the county, I was proud to introduce this bill clarifying that Tompkins County can spend its own money on affordable housing projects, and I'm pleased the Governor has now signed it into law. As housing costs continue to rise across the county, it's imperative that we do everything in our power to ensure that Tompkins County remains affordable to all, and this bill will certainly help in realizing that goal."
Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I- Big Flats) noted that, “Tompkins County faces a significant affordable housing shortage. I was glad to sponsor this bill that puts the county on solid legal footing, if it decides to use local resources to augment the HUD money that’s available for affordable housing projects. The Senate agreed, passing the bill unanimously.”
County Administrator Jason Molino said he will present options for the county’s Housing and Economic Development Committee to consider at its September 26 meeting. Chaired by Legislator Anna Kelles, that committee would make any recommendations to the full legislature to consider.
Tompkins County’s Housing Strategy, adopted in July 2017, calls for construction of 200 new rental units/year affordable for those earning up to 100% of area median income, for a total of 2,000 new rental units through 2025. In addition, to meet the county’s needs, 380 new ownership units/year should also be built, for a total of 3,800 new ownership units through 2025. The need for appropriate housing for seniors, students, and vulnerable populations is also identified in the Housing Strategy.
Contact: Martha Robertson, Chair of the Legislature, 607-274-5434 or 607-592-3119