October 18, 2021

County housing survey to finish this month

Homer Deputy Mayor Pat Clune has had his hands full rehabilitating his historic home on Main Street. This week, he came head to head with a heating issue that’s had him racking his mind for solutions.

“Oh, holy cow,” Clune said about the issues older homes may have. His was built in 1825, but Clune said applying for tax credits through the state for the building’s historic character isn’t easy. He’s interested to see what grants the county may apply for after it finishes a countywide housing survey.

Eric Mulvihill, clerk of the Cortland Coutny Legislature said the county applied for a grant to fund the survey in conjunction with other county organizations interested in “stable, quality, accessible housing in the community.”

The county awarded Cortland based Thoma Development Consultants the contract to conduct the survey, which requires a visual inspection of a sampling of homes to assess their condition.

“These random samples are then used to develop an overall average assessment of the housing stock in Cortland County with homes being categorized based on an approved state definition of housing,” Mulvihill said.

Thoma, which is expected to complete the survey this month, has already looked at more than 2,500 houses, including single- and multifamily rentals.

Once the county finishes the survey, it can use the information to apply for grants to help people update their homes. Some towns and villages have grants to establish rehabilitation programs for senior or low- to moderate-income families.

“For seniors, this can mean the difference of staying in their homes longer to and for low- to moderate-income folks it can mean the difference of making needed improvements that they otherwise could not afford on their own in conjunction with buying their first home or maintaining their home,” Mulvihill said.

However, there isn’t a countywide program.

“The county has never applied to establish such a housing improvement program,” Mulvihill said. “This housing survey is the first step in potentially applying for another grant to establish a countywide home improvement program. This survey will make future grant applications for a county housing assistance program more competitive by demonstrating the need for such funds.”

Clune said should a program become available, he will look into it, but likely won’t be eligible. But others in the village of Homer may be.

“We got a lot of homeowners in the village who live in historic homes,” he said, noting such a program may help those homeowners.

However, Clune said that if the county does create a housing program, it needs to be publicized and someone must help people navigate the application process.

Mulvihill said the survey will be made available to the public.