How Tompkins County public officials could themselves, with the county as a land-owner, take action on affordable housing, not just encourage and direct other land-owners to do so:
1. Tear down the squatty Office for the Aging building 214 W MLK St.
2. Build the zoning-allowable six stories at 214 W. MLK St., within the City of Ithaca's Density District, where the developer can take advantage of a tax abatement. The first couple floors could be a temporary TCPL space with at least two stories of housing, such as fifth & sixth floors, with the balance as office or temporary TCPL space as needed.
3. Tear down 101 E. Green St., the big-box style suburban building in the middle of our city's downtown. This site is zoned for 100 feet, yet is wastefully using only a single, sprawling story. This property is also located in the city's Density District.
4. Build a new library and perhaps small commercial space on first floor, lecture hall, and more conference rooms, plus TC office space on the second floor. Design the third, fourth and fifth floors as TC office space as needed. The fifth or sixth thru ninth floors could be all mixed income affordable and market-rate housing.
5. Move TCPL back into 101 E. Green St.
6. Reclaim the temporary TCPL spaces at 214 W MLK St as county offices and/or additional housing.
The property at 101 E. Green St. has a close to perfect "WalkScore" of 96 out of 100 because of its very walkable location near amenities, places people want to go, such as shops, cafés, restaurants, pharmacy, etc. Zero people currently live at 101 E. Green St., despite the very optimal location in the middle of our downtown, next to our Commons, at a bus terminal. Several hundred people could live on this site, taking advantage of this very walkable, bikeable, bus-accessible area every day.
People need housing. Tompkins County did spend money on building and remodeling the library, indeed. There is a good balance of taking that investment and understanding that every year that housing isn't built, the space is just wasted, i.e. people seek affordable housing farther away from downtown, farther away from transit than they would like, paying more than is affordable.
Sometime in the near future, I would like to see our county downtown Ithaca property at both 101 E. Green St. and 214 W. MLK St. better utilized. County officials have meetings and talk about affordable housing and how it is desperately needed, especially in the city of Ithaca, here is a solid option for the County to take real action themselves, with the county as a property owner in making that happen.