December 5, 2021

City homes in on housing

Rental housing for students is shown Tuesday on Clayton Avenue.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Rental housing for students is shown Tuesday on Clayton Avenue.

CORTLAND – Much of the Common Council’s meeting focused on housing Tuesday as aldermen gauged input from a couple of residents on a proposed rental signage law and debated a proposed new homeowner’s assistance program.

Last year, the city’s housing committee suggested requiring signs on all rental properties displaying the property owner’s name, phone number, rentalregistry ID and a slogan or web address. The intent was to provide renters and residents with contact information in the event of an emergency while also eliminating large rental property signage some consider to be eyesores.

The council had encouraged rental property owners to be part of the discussion, but only two residents, Jo Schaffer and Sharon Stevans, spoke during the public comments.

“We restrict yard sale signs, political signs, business signs,” Stevans said, “I think it’s better to have a smaller, standard attractive sign affixed to houses. I hope that the proposal is supported.”

Also at the meeting, aldermen Adam Megivern (R-7th Ward) and Katy Silliman (D-2ndWard) — both members of the housing committee — discussed setting aside $70,000 in funding to create a loan programfor middle-income homeowners to make repairs to theirproperties.
Middle-income homeowners often make too much toqualify for other assistance programs, but not enough to afford repairs on their own, Megivern said.

The loan program would likely set a maximum income and could require a 50 percent match from the applicant.

It was suggested by members of the city housing committee that the $70,000 budgeted to combat long-vacant properties, or “zombie” properties, beused to fund the one-time program.

“We don’t want to encourage people to put off jobs that need to be done until the city comes up with the money to help,” Silliman said. “It’s … meant to be an encouragement to get going on some of this.”

However, Mayor Brian Tobin said he was concerned how the effort to rehab or demolish zombie properties would continue if the city used that money for another purpose.

Alderman John Bennett (D-4th Ward) also said he would feel more comfortable about the program if there were a list outlining what types of projects would be funded.

Tobin said he would research the idea further. Meanwhile, Silliman said she and the rest of the housing committee willrefine details of the proposal. The issue is expected to be brought up at the board’s Sept. 5 meeting.