October 18, 2021

County to survey housing

Data would be used to benefit many organizations

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Arnie Prada of 31 Arthur Ave., Cortland uses the stair lift that Access to Independence recently installed in his house. Access to Independence is hoping that a housing assessment the county is looking to do will give it the ability to apply for grants that can aid people like Prada, so they can continue living in their homes.

Arnie Prada has lived at his home on Arthur Avenue in Cortland for 42 years. Accommodations, like the installation of a stair lift in the more than 50-year-old house, ensure he can continue living there.

Access to Independence installed the lift in his home last week, Prada said. He had asked about getting one in January after he began crawling up his stairs.

“It’s the best thing I ever did,” Prada said about reaching out to the organization.

The organization hopes it will be able to use data gathered in a housing assessment survey the county plans to do to gain access to other grants to fix up people’s houses, including installing accessibility items like ramps or stair lift machines, said Aaron Baier, the executive director of Access to Independence.

“That provides a benefit to them (the homeowner), but there’s a benefit to the county by improving our housing stock and making it more accessible or shoring it up,” said Eric Mulvihill, the clerk of the Legislature.

The county received $50,000 in state Community Development Block Grant funds in December through the Regional Economic Development Council. Mulvihill said the county put out a request for proposals from companies interested in compiling the survey and its data. Those requests are due at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. From there, the county must decide who to go with.

“A resolution could be brought into the March round of committees,” Mulvihill said.

Of the 20,724 housing units in Cortland 16,460 were built in 1970 or before. More than 9,500 — nearly half — were built before 1940.

A minimum of 25% of the houses in each municipalities throughout the county will be surveyed, according to the request for proposals. Every fourth structure on each street will be looked at to determine if it is considered substandard housing, based on the state definition and included in the county’s Consolidated Housing Plan.

Baier said the person will look at elements like the siding, number of steps, appearance of the house’s foundation.

“That kind of facade stuff people can see from the street,” Baier said.

Those elements will be ranked as sound, minor, major or critical. The assessment will also state the number of units and whether it is accessible to people with disabilities.

Baier said the last assessment was done in the 1990s and an update is much needed.

“Having more up-to-date recent data will help agencies apply for grant money,” he said.

And not just Access to Independence, Mulvihill said. Agencies can use the data in a number of ways. One example was the county Health Department using the information to determine areas of houses it could focus in on for lead poisoning awareness and education.

“If we can identify potential hot spots or areas where we need to target education and outreach, that’s going to make existing programs that much more effective,” Mulvihill said.

Once the county picks an organization to do the survey it will take about one season to complete, Baier said. It would be about a year before the information is mapped out and readily available.

But no matter what, Prada said it’s a fantastic idea.

“I think it’s the greatest thing going,” Prada said. “The grant money should go toward something like that.”